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Essay Index Reprint Series 


First published 1931 
Reprinted 1967 


Some of the articles contained in this collection have 

been published elsewhere. I am indebted to Allyn and 

Bacon for their courtesy in permitting the inclusion of the 

study on the Milesian tale, which was first published in 

pamphlet form by that firm and forms the introduction to 

my edition of Apuleius. The editors of the Classical Journal 

have kindly allowed me to reprint the articles entitled 

"A Greek Conception of the Constitution of Matter" and 

" Can Latin Be Revived as the International Language of 

Science ? " 

Joseph B. Pike 

University of Minnesota 
October, 1930 



I. Verona and Catullus 1 

II. GlACOMO BoNi 27 

III. Pliny and Roman Society of the First Century 43 

IV. Seneca 69 

V. Roman Epistolography from the Earliest Times 

TO THE Age of Sidonius 93 

VI. Classical Predecessors of the Short Story . . 118 

VII. A Greek Conception of the Constitution of 

Matter 148 

VIII. Can Latin Be Revived as the International 

Language of Science? . 165 





DIRECTLY west of Venice and at a distance of about 
sixty miles lies Verona, the most picturesque and 
interesting city of the Venetian mainland. The center of the 
Verona of Roman times may still be traced in the Piazza 
delle Erbe, in olden days the Forum but now the fruit and 
vegetable market and one of the most fascinating of the 
many picturesque squares to be found in Italian cities. 
During the World War a bomb was dropped from an 
aeroplane into this square and about sixty people were 
killed. This may be taken as a gruesome indication of the 
military importance of the city. Situated upon the main 
road and commanding one of the easiest Alpine passes to 
the north, Verona is of great strategic value, as it was, in- 
deed, even in ancient times. 

We read in Tacitus, where he is speaking of the struggle 
between the armies of Vespasian and Vitellius, that the 
"reduction of Verona brought an accession of wealth and 
gave an example to other cities." " Moreover," he continues, 
" as it lies between Rhaetia and the Julian Alps, it was a 
post of importance, where an army in force might com- 
mand the pass into Italy and render it inaccessible to the 
German armies." Tacitus' words "brought an accession of 



wealth" and another phrase that he uses in this same pas- 
sage — in Veronensibus pretium fuit ("the Veronese were 
a prize worth getting") — clearly indicate that the place 
was not only of military importance but that it was a 
wealthy and flourishing city. 

Verona then, apart from its absorbing story in the history 
of the Middle Ages, its glorious place in the world of art, 
and its checkered career in modern times until its incorpo- 
ration into the Kingdom of Italy, is of particular interest to 
the student of classical history and art because it is the only 
important city of northern Italy whose ancient monuments 
are so preserved and so situated that they easily permit the 
reconstruction in broad outline of the classic Augustan 
colony. When we consider that of ancient Milan, Pavia, 
Turin, Placentia, and Cremona practically nothing remains, 
the importance of Verona in this respect is apparent. 

The town is situated upon the banks of the Adige, a swift 
mountain river, which more than once in the past has left 
the city in ruins, but which is now confined between 
strong embankments in the city itself and is so regulated by 
dykes that it has been rendered harmless. The name of this 
river in ancient times was Athesis, and how appropriate 
the word circumflua is in Silius Italicus* phrase, Verona 
Athesi circumflua, is clear when we look at the situation. 
The Adige winds around in the form of a letter S, and 
although the town is situated on both sides of the river, its 
main portion is confined within the curve of the lower part 
of the S. 

The general outline of the ancient walls may be fol- 
lowed with the aid of the following cardinal points. The 


Porta Borsari consists o£ a double arcade surmounted by 
two stories of arched galleries. Baedeker characterizes it 
as "a town gate, erected under the Emperor Gallienus 
A. D. 265, in the poor, later Roman style." But what we 
really have is the principal gate of the Augustan city, the 
two arcades in pure classic style being a veneer, so to speak, 
of the heavy Augustan gate. Gallienus retopped the struc- 
ture, erased the original inscription, and wrote thereon that 
the walls of Verona were built between April and Decem- 
ber of the year 265 by order of the Emperor Gallienus. It is 
perfectly apparent that the walls could not have been built 
in this space of time and that Gallienus' work was simply 
that of reconstruction and repairing. 

That Verona was recolonized and rebuilt by Augustus 
about 25 B. C. was pretty conclusively shown by Frothing- 
ham, the distinguished professor of archaeology at Prince- 
ton, in a most interesting way. Frothingham had a theory 
in regard to colony arches: that they were built wherever 
an Augustan colony was founded; that they stood outside 
the walls; that they were placed on the outer pomerium 
line across the main highway outside the principal city gate. 
Judging from the known pomerium width at Aosta, 366 
meters, that the greater size of Verona would warrant an 
estimate of from 500 to 600 meters, he began pacing oflF the 
ground from the Porta Borsari, the conjectured Augustan 
gate, along the Corso Cavour in line with the ancient road 
to Rome. At a distance of 550 meters he found marked in 
the pavement by white cobblestones edged with black, the 
outline of a Roman arch. 

On this spot stood, until 1805, the so-called "Arch of the 



Gavii," an exquisite work of Augustan art. This was torn 
down during the French occupation in 1809. An Austrian 
archduke afterward offered to pay half the expense of 
rebuilding the arch, but the Veronese, impoverished by 
war, were unable to undertake the task, and the pieces of 
the arch were carted to the Arena and there they rested, 
unknown to archaeologists, until Frothingham discovered 
them. The Veronese had contented themselves with mark- 
ing in the pavement the plan of the arch on the original 

The other point that serves to fix the position of the 
classic walls is the Arce Leoni, the remains of a Roman 
city gate built into the side wall of a house in a street lead- 
ing from the Piazza delle Erbe to the bridge known as the 
Ponte delle Navi. The southern Roman wall therefore ran 
westward from the Adige, passing north of the bridge, and 
joined the western wall at a right angle near the Coliseum. 

The Coliseum, called even now "Arena" from the com- 
mon medieval Italian term for "Roman amphitheater," is 
in a fair state of preservation, although it has lost all but 
four of its outer arches. It was constructed of marble and 
would seat about twenty-five thousand people. 

One may still cross the river by the Ponte Pietra, so 
named in medieval times to distinguish it from the only 
other bridge, the Ponte delle Navi, or Bridge of Boats, 
a pontoon structure. The piers and two of the arches of the 
former are Roman. Just south of this bridge are the remains 
of the Teatro Romano. Built of soft tufa, it is conjectured 
that it may even antedate the time of Augustus. West of 
the theater, towering on an eminence, is the Castel San 
Pietro, interesting for our purpose as undoubtedly marking 



the site of the arx of the original settlement. Any visitor, 
by these few guiding points, is enabled to reconstruct, at 
least roughly, the outlines of classic Verona. 

The roll of the ancient and modern Verona is a long and 
distinguished one, and at the entrance of the fine old town 
hall, popularly known as La Loggia and built in the early 
Renaissance style, one may see above the door the statues 
of Cornelius Nepos, the biographer; Vitruvius, the archi- 
tect; Pliny, the naturalist; Macer, the poet and the friend 
of Vergil; and the poet whose name is forever associated 
with Verona and its environs, Catullus. There is doubt as 
to the right of Verona to claim some of these ancient 
worthies, but in the case of Catullus her title is clear. 
Speaking of the glory that he has reflected upon his own 
birthplace. Martial remarks, Nee sua plus debet tenui 
Verona Catullo ("nor does his own Verona owe more to 
the poet Catullus"), and Ovid sings, Mantua Vergilio, 
gaudet Verona Catullo, 

Catullus himself says, Brixia, Veronae mater amata meae 
("Brixia, loved mother of my Verona"). He also sends an 
invitation to a brother poet begging him to leave Como and 
its lake to visit him at Verona: 

Poetae tenero, meo sodali 
velim Caecilio, papyre, dicas 
Veronam veniat, Novi relinquens 
Comi moenia Lariumque litus. 

Go, my note, I pray thee quick: 
Caecilius find and say 
Verona bids him come, 
Como must be left to mourn. 


In a letter to a friend the poet says that it is base for him 
to tarry at Verona, for his mistress, Lesbia, is showering 
favors upon his rivals at Rome. 

Eight or ten miles to the v^est of Verona is the southern 
shore line of the Lago di Garda, the Lacus Benacus of 
Roman times, the most azure blue of all those lovely north 
Italian lakes. From this south shore juts out a very narrow 
neck of land. Near the extremity of the peninsula is the 
Italian resort, Sirmione, known in classic times as " Sirmio," 
and just beyond are the remains of a Roman building 
called the "Grotte di Catullo," extending into the lake and 
fabled to have been the country home of Catullus, who 
wrote his poems there. At any rate, whether or no this par- 
ticular building was Catullus' villa, the peninsula of Sirmio 
was one of his favorite haunts and he did have a country 
house there, even after Rome became his chief place of 
residence. He calls it the gem of all peninsulas and islands 
in lakes and seas, and in a poem addressed to Sirmio he 
invokes it as his home to welcome him on his return from 
the Orient. This charming poem, one of his best known, 
is written in the so-called "scazon" or "choliambic" meter, 
a favorite rhythm of Catullus: 

Paene insularum, Sirmio, insularumque 
ocelle, quascumque in liquentibus stagnis 
marique vasto fert uterque Neptunus 
quam te libenter quamque laetus inviso, 
vix mi ipse credcns Thyniam atque Bithynos 
liquisse campos et videre te in tuto. 
o quid solutis est beatius curis, 
cum mens onus reponit, ac peregrino 



labore fessi venimus larem ad nostrum 
desideratoque acquiescimus lecto? 
hoc est, quod unumst pro laboribus tantis. 
salve, o venusta Sirmio, atque ero gaude: 
gaudete vosque, o Lydiae lacus undae: 
ridete, quicquid est domi cachinnorum. 

O, Sirmio, of all the islands, 

Of all peninsulas the jewel. 

Set in the sea's vast heaving bosom 

Or lying on still pool's gleaming waters, 

How joyous and with what a gladness 

I see thee now once more, when I return. 

Can I have left the east behind me 

And view thee, free from all its dangers? 

How good to cast aside our worries 

When once our soul lays down its burdens 

And, wearied with our distant travel. 

We reach again the old home dwelling 

And rest upon the couch we've longed for! 

'Tis well worth all and more we've suffered. 

My greetings to thee, lovely island! 

Rejoice with me, O Lydian waters, 

Peal loud, all laughter in my home! 

The Italian poet Carducci has written a series of poems 
that he has whimsically and with deprecation entitled Odi 
Bar bare. They reproduce in Italian, as well as may be, the 
music of the ancient meters. Many of them are of much 
power, originality, and beauty. One, entitled "Sirmione," 
is filled with recollections of Catullus. But for those of our 
tongue it is Tennyson, with his haunting lines re-echoing 



Strains of Catullian music, who has united in everlasting 
bonds the memory of Catullus with this spot: 

Frater Ave atque Vale 
Row us out from Desenzano, to your Sirmione row! 
So they rowed, and there we landed — *0 venusta Sirmio!' 
There to me thro' all the groves of olive in the summer glow. 
There beneath the Roman ruin where the purple flowers grow. 
Came that *Ave atque Vale' of the Poet's hopeless woe, 
Tenderest of Roman poets nineteen-hundred years ago, 
* Frater Ave atque Vale' — as we wander 'd to and fro 
Gazing at the Lydian-laughter of the Garda Lake below 
Sweet Catullus's all-but-island, olive-silvery Sirmio! 


The period known in Roman literature as the Ciceronian, 
that in which Roman classic prose style attained perfection 
and which ushered in the Augustan Age, or the period of 
perfection in poetry, itself possessed two of the most highly 
gifted poets of the Latin tongue, Lucretius and Catullus; 
one, the philosopher poet and deep thinker, earnestly desir- 
ous of rendering more tolerable that short gleam of con- 
sciousness called life for this poor combination of atoms 
known as man; the other, gallant and man of fashion, 
hght-hearted, impulsive, passionate, and finally the victim 
of the wiles of a gifted and beautiful but abandoned 

Catullus' short volume of poems is practically the only 
source of information about his life. Unfortunately the 
poems were not published in chronological order, and as 
they stand they are somewhat puzzling to the reade^who 



desires more than the impression of a single detached poem. 
It is, however, not difficult to draw, in outline at least, the 
picture of the poet's life, so truly does his work reflect the 
feelings of the writer, his joys, his loves, his follies, his hate, 
and finally his bitterness. 

Verona was an important town, which had become a 
Roman colony in 87 B. C, two years before the birth of 
Catullus. As a result of Roman conquest, it had lost its 
original Gallic characteristics, and its civilization was half 
Roman and half Greek. In this, his native city, Catullus 
must have fallen early under the influence of what is called 
the Alexandrian school of poetry, a school that arose in 
Egypt after the dissolution of the Macedonian Empire. 
The Alexandrians, having lost the inspiration of a national 
life, became students of the minute; and erudition, abstruse 
and often petty, became a marked characteristic of their 
literary work. The prettily turned phrase, the erudite allu- 
sion, the artificial analogy, but withal perfection of form, 
became typical of this school, which, more than any other, 
influenced the multitudinous throngs of Romans who tried 
their hands at poetic composition during the first century 
before Christ. One of these was Catullus. Just so far, how- 
ever, as he rises superior to the cramping and deadening 
influence of the school does he show himself one of Rome's 
most richly gifted poets. 

We find Catullus at Rome somewhere between his twen- 
tieth and twenty-fifth year, courted and admired by the 
literary* set of the city, dissipated and one of the gayest of 
the gay. "Come, my slave," he sings, "pour out stronger 
cups of Falernian at the bidding of our mistress, Postumia, 



who is tipsier than the tipsy grape. Away, water, thou de- 
struction of wine, make thy home with the stern and sour. 
This (raising high the cup) is unadulterated deUrium." 
These thoughts he expresses in the hendecasyllabiq meter, 
or eleven-syllable line, a form that he brought to such 
a degree of perfection that he is its acknowledged master: 

Minister vetuli puer Falerni 

inger mi calices amariores, 

ut lex Postumiae iubet magistrae, 

ebrioso acino ebriosioris. 

at vos quolibet hinc abite, lymphae, 

vini pernicies, et ad severos 

migrate; hie merus est Thyonianus. 

Catullus had one country home on the Lago di Garda 
and another in the Sabine district where Horace later had 
his famous farm. He was, however, none too well provided 
with money for the extravagant society in which he moved, 
and he sings in his favorite meter that his friend Fabullus 
will dine sumptuously at his house, that is, if he bring 
a good dinner with him, not forgetting a pretty girl, wine, 
wit, and laughter. His own purse, he remarks, is filled with 

It was at Rome, in the midst of its brilliant society, that 
Catullus fell a victim to the master passion of his life, a pas- 
sion that inspired the only Latin lyrics with the ring of 
genuine feeling that have been preserved. She who inspired 
this passion is addressed by the poet as Lesbia. Her true 
name was Clodia, sister of Clodius, the well-known enemy 
of Cicero. The evidence for this statenient rests upon the 


following facts. Ovid says that Lesbia was an assumed 
name. Now it was a custom for poets to address the objects 
of their desires under an assumed name. Convention or- 
dained that the assumed name be of exactly the same num- 
ber of syllables and of the same metrical value as the true 
name; TibuUus calls Plania by the assumed name "Delia," 
and Propertius calls Hostia, "Synthia." Lesbia, then, might 
be the equivalent of Clodia. Furthermore, Apuleius ex- 
plicitly states that Clodia was the name concealed under 
that of Lesbia; and, finally, all that Catullus says of Lesbia 
tallies so closely with what is known of Clodia that there 
seems no reason for doubting the general belief of antiquity. 
Clodia came of a distinguished and ancient line and had 
married Caelius Metellus Celer, a consular, who had, as 
became a man of that position, great influence and personal 
dignity. She herself possessed remarkable beauty of a rich 
southern type; she was a favorite in society, witty, and con- 
stantly surrounded by lovers; and she wielded considerable 
political influence. She was six or seven years older than 
Catullus. At first she was undoubtedly flattered by the 
attentions of this pet of the literary circles of Rome, and 
Catullus became enslaved by her universally conquering 
charms, for she was beautiful from her gorgeous hair to the 
soles of her snowy feet and had stolen the charms of all 
other women: 

Lesbia formosa est; quae cum pulcherrima tota est, 
tum omnibus una omnes surripuit Veneres. 

Adapting one of Sappho's odes to his own purpose, Catullus 
deems that man who is blessed enough to gaze upon her 


and listen to her rippling laughter a very god, unless -there j 
be aught higher than a god: 

Ille mi par esse deos videtur, 

ille, si fas est, superare divos, \ 

qui sedens adversus identidem te ! 

spectat et audit dulce ridentem. \ 

The very intoxication of passion is felt in the famous lines 
in which he reminds her that life is short and should be 

spent in the bosom of pleasure: | 

Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus, J 

rumoresque senum severiorum i 

omnes unius aestimemus assis. 

soles occidere et redire possunt; 

nobis, cum semel occidit brevis lux, \ 

nox est perpetua una dormienda. 

da mi basia mille, deinde centum, \ 

dein mille altera, dein secunda centum, j 

deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum, \ 

dein, cum millia multa fecerimus, 

conturbabimus ilia, ne sciamus, i 

aut ne quis malus invidere possit, i 

cum tantum sciat esse basiorum. \ 

I once remarked in the hearing of Henry Bellows, a ver- 
satile scholar, well known as the translator of the Elder \ 
Edda, that our cold Saxon temperament would not admit ; 
of a translation of the concluding lines of the poem that i 
does not seem trivial. In answer, and also, perhaps, to re- i 
fute my strictures upon the use of rhyme in translations , 
from the classical poets, Mr. Bellows wrote down the fol- \ 


lowing translation, which he himself had made in his stu- 
dent days: 

My Lesbia, let us live and let us love; 
Be sure the councils of the wise are worth 
No passing thought, for though the sun above 
May pass, he comes again to light the earth, 

But when our day of sunlight wanes 

Only an endless night remains. 

Give me a hundred kisses, then a score, 
A thousand, then a hundred more and yet 
Another hundred, then a thousand more — 
And then — their number let us both forget 

That envy may not ever see 

How many kisses there can be. 

When Lesbia plays with her pet sparrow, Catullus sug- 
gests half in earnest and half seriously, as though he wished 
that he might himself believe what he says, that she does 
it to wean her thoughts from the sharp pangs of love, and 
he expresses the wish that he too might find like consola- 
tion. So, also, the elegy on the sparrow's death is badinage, 
half serious, but graceful and charming poetry. All the 
other poems that have to do with Lesbia are earnest and 
serious, expressing burning love or bitter hate. He did, per- 
haps, deceive himself into believing that no woman had 
ever had such adoration, so earnestly does he speak: 

Nulla potest mulier tantum se dicere amatam 
vere, quantum a me Lesbia amata mea'st. 
nulla fides fuit unquam foedere tanta, 
quanta in amore tuo ex parte reperta mea'st. 


Sometime during the progress of this amour Catullus 
lost a brother to whom he was dearly attached. The brother 
died while traveling in the distant Troad. In his sorrow 
Catullus withdrew to his native Verona, where he could 
write of nothing but his grief. In an elegy, full of feeling 
naturally expressed, he asks whether he is never to see that 
dear form nor hear that dear voice again. Yet will he 
always love him and ever sing the sorrow of his death. 

During this period Clodia was faithless to Catullus and 
he knew it. She spoke ill of him too, he tells us, but he 
swears that she loves him still, and if you ask him how he 
knows, he will tell you that he speaks ill of her, yet loves 
her still. The naive poem in which this thought is expressed 
has been much imitated, notably by Bussy Rabutin, the 
brilliant cousin of Madame de Sevigne and the author of 
the Histoire Amoureuse des Gaules: 

Philis dit le diable de moi; 
De son amour et de sa foi 
C'est une preuve assez nouvelle; 
Ce qui me fait croire, pourtant, 
Qu'elle m'aime eflectivement, 
C'est que je dit le diable d'elle, 
Et que je I'aime eperdument. 

Clodia's husband, Metullus, died suddenly, and the sus- 
picion of poisoning was whispered about. We may, per- 
haps, acquit Clodia of this crime on indirect evidence. 
Cicero, who thoroughly hated her and accused her of all 
crimes imaginable, does mention this suspicion, but he does 
not lay as much stress upon it as he undoubtedly would 


have done had there been any reasonable grounds for the 
accusation. Clodia was, however, a courtesan at heart and 
now gave loose rein to her inclinations. She even received 
among her lovers personal friends of Catullus, among 
others Caelius Rufus, whom he taxes with perfidy. This 
was the Caelius who was afterward charged with having 
attempted to poison Clodia and in whose defense Cicero 
delivered the speech that paints in such lurid colors the 
wickedness of the woman. On the same score Catullus 
vents his bitterness against Ravidius and Gellius. Espe- 
cially coarse are his attacks upon Gellius — coarse even 
when we make allowance for the license of Roman cus- 
toms and the freedom of the Latin tongue. He even turns 
the sting of his epigram against Clodia. Yet he confesses 
that hate itself cannot break the shackles of infatuation. 
He hates and loves, and if you ask him why, he knows 
not; he only feels and suffers: 

Odi et amo. quare id faciam requires fortasse, 
nescio. sed fieri sentio et excrucior. 

When Clodia calls him back temporarily, perhaps to test 
her power over him, perhaps sated with her many in- 
trigues, he prays the gods that her promises may be kept 
and the tie be everlasting. A second rupture proves that 
his hopes are vain and, unable longer to bUnd himself to 
the truth, his life's romance ends with the bitter wish that 
she may live happily with her lovers and give no thought 
to that affection which, because of her wickedness, droops 
as does the flower on the meadow's edge cut down by the 
ruthless plow in its passage: 



Nec meum respectet, ut ante, amorem 
qui illius culpa cecidit velut prati 
ultimi flos, praetereunte postquam 
tactus aratro est. 

This thought is expressed in the Sapphic stanza. Some 
critics think that Horace found Httle opportunity to im- 
prove upon the form as handed down by Catullus. One*s 
ear tells him, however, that Catullus has not attained per- 
fect ease and mastery in handling this form; and this is the 
reason, I believe, that Ke employs it so rarely. In general, 
the poems describing the growth, maturity, and death of 
his infatuation are unsurpassed for simplicity, naturalness, 
and harmony. 

Catullus went to Bithynia in the suite of Memmius, the 
governor of that province. Like other young men who 
often joined such parties in the expectation of pecuniary 
advantage, Catullus was inspired by this motive, for his 
means were none too great for the expenditures incurred 
amid the gay surroundings of the capitol. Memmius cared 
not a whit for the welfare of his dependents, and Catullus, 
in a letter to a friend, intimates that his hopes for pecuniary 
advancement had been far from realized. After a year he 
left the service with joy. On his journey through Asia he 
stopped at the tomb of his brother and gave expression to 
the sorrow that ever welled anew when he thought of his 
bereavement. He had traversed many lands and sailed over 
many seas and now came to give the last offerings to the 
poor dumb ashes of him who was so dear. 

Accipe fraterno multum manantia fletu 
atque in perpetuum frater ave atque vale. 


He made his journey home in his own boat, one of those 
long, swift, narrow yachts known to the Greeks as phaselus. 
On his safe arrival he wrote a dedicatory poem celebrating 
her good qualities. His disillusionment with regard to 
Clodia seemed to allow him to turn his attention to poems 
of a more serious character, and these will soon claim our 

Although we are not to take literally all that he says, it 
must be acknowledged that many of the epigrams of this 
period indicate, after all due allowance has been made for 
that freedom of speech that has ever characterized Latin 
peoples, not only a looseness of life but an intimate acquaint- 
ance with those forms of vice particularly peculiar to 
ancient peoples. One who cares to whitewash this phase of 
his character may call as witness one of Catullus' own epi- 
grams in which he coarsely rebukes Aurelius and Furius, 
who have presumed to find him immodest because his 
verses are rather voluptuous. "For," remarks he, "the 
sacred poet ought to be chaste himself; his verses need not 
be so." 

The epigrams also prove that his fame as a poet had now 
brought him to the notice, not only of the pleasure-loving 
society of Rome, but to that of the most influential men in 
the state. He devoted some attention to political matters 
and even attacked the great Caesar himself. It is conjec- 
tured that the latter found means to win his good will or 
at least his passive allegiance, for the attacks suddenly 
ceased. Literary discussion was, however, more to the 
taste of Catullus. He mentions important works of his 
brother poets and praises them. The lack of taste displayed 


by poets who follow the earlier school of poetry provoked 
some of his harshest abuse. Affectation excited his mirth 
and he ridiculed the growing practice of aspirating initial 
vowels. A certain Arrius insisted upon pronouncing "am- 
bush," "hambush." 

Chommoda dicebat, si quando commoda vellet 
dicere, et insidias Arrius hinsidias. 

The public, however, had hopes of not having their ears 
offended further, for Arrius had been sent into Syria on 
a mission. Suddenly the awful news came that since 
Arrius' arrival in that region of the world, one no longer 
heard of the Ionian Sea. It had become the " Hionian Sea." 

lonios fluctus, postquam illuc Arrius isset, 
iam non lonios esse, sed Hionias. 

All of the more pretentious works of Catullus show 
great poetic gifts, but in some of them the taint of Alexan- 
drianism, to which he had risen superior in the lyrics, is 
detected. We might expect this in the poem entided 
" Coma Bereneces," for it is a translation from the Greek of 
Callimachus. It is not only forced and artificial in its theme 
but is obscure in its expression. Berenece, wife of an Egyp- 
tian king, offered up a lock of her hair in the temple of 
Venus for the safe return of her husband from war. This 
lock disappeared from the temple, and the court astrologer, 
Conon, declared that it had been translated to the skies and 
there gleamed as a new constellation. Catullus' poem rep- 



resents the lock of hair, or the constellation, lamenting its 
severance from the head of its mistress. 

Again, in his longest work, " The Marriage of Peleus and 
Thetis," an epillion in heroic hexameter, though the verse 
is handled with marvelous skill and lofty heights of poetic 
expression are attained, Catullus sins against the canon of 
symmetrical structure in that he extends what should be an 
episode to unnatural proportions. In describing the nuptial 
couch of Peleus and Thetis he mentions, among other 
scenes embroidered upon the canopy, one depicting the 
story of the abandonment of Ariadne by Theseus. Catullus 
takes the opportunity to tell the whole legend of the latter 
event, and its narration takes up about one-half of the entire 
poem. Apart from the two examples cited, the longer 
poems are quite up to the artistic level of the lyrics. 

The epithalamium of Vinia and Manlius Torquatus is 
a poem full of grace and life, which gives, withal, a perfect 
picture of the Roman marriage in patrician circles. The 
poem, written in a five-line stanza consisting of four gly- 
conics and a second pherecratic, is wonderfully musical. 
Its opening stanza, an invocation to Hymen, runs thus: 

Collis o Heliconii 

cultor, Uraniae genus, 

qui rapis teneram ad virum 

virginem, o Hymenaee Hymen 

o Hymen Hymenaee. 

The poet himself, standing at the door of the bride's house, 
thus invokes Hymen and directs a band of maids to sound 
the praises of that god by whose divinity the family and 



the Roman state is perpetuated. The bride should now 
appear, but modesty detains her. The poet encourages her: 
"Cease to weep, O daughter o£ Arunculeius! There is no 
danger that fairer woman than thou shall look upon bright 
dawn ascending from Ocean's stream": 

Flere desine. non tibi Au- 
runculeia, periculum est 
nequa femina pulchrior 
clarum ab Oceano diem 
viderit venientem. 

As the bride appears the Fescennine chant begins. One of 
the practices most repellent to modern taste was the in- 
troduction, in the Roman marriage ceremony, of coarse 
jesting — the so-called "Fescennine verses." It has been sug- 
gested that they were introduced to avert the influence of 
deities whose malignity might be aroused by the felicity of 
the bridegroom. The same idea permitted the introduction 
of joking and buffoonery in a part of the Roman funeral 
ceremony, so that the praise and laudation of the dead 
might not excite divine resentment. Fescennine verses seem 
to have constituted an essential part of the Roman marriage 
ceremony. Catullus, in his realism, introduces them in this 
hymn but with some skill and a degree of delicacy. They 
take the form of a warning to the bridegroom to abjure 
some of his former practices. The bride is lifted over the 
threshold of her new home and the attendant throng dis- 
appears, while the poet indulges in the hope that in the 
future a Httle Torquatus may stretch out his baby hands 
and smile at his father sweetly with half -parted lips: 



Torquatus volo parvulus 
matris e gremio suae 
porrigens teneras manus 
dulce rideat ad patrem 
semihante labello. 

A second epithalamium, which probably was not written 
for a particular occasion as was the former, represents a 
chorus of maidens and youths singing responsive stanzas. 
Two of the most celebrated stanzas of the poem, which is 
in the heroic hexameter, represent the maidens singing that 
a modest flower growing in the retirement of the garden, 
safe from the encroachment of the cattle and the plow- 
share, nurtured by the sun, the air, and the rain, is desired 
by many a boy and maid, but when plucked by the careless 
hand it withers and is desired of none: 

Ut flos in saeptis secretus nascitur hortis, 
ignotus pecori, nuUo convulsus aratro, 
quern mulcent aurae, firmat sol, educat imber, 
multi ilium pueri, multae optavere puellae; 
idem cum tenui carptus defloruit ungui, 
nulli ilium pueri, nuUae optavere puellae. 

To this the youths reply that the vine in the naked field 
that is not upheld by the supporting tree trails upon the 
ground and never produces the luscious grape, and is neg- 
lected and uncared for by the farmer and his oxen; but if 
it is united to the supporting elm tree it receives all care: 

Ut vidua in nudo vitis quae nascitur arvo 
numquam se extollit, numquam mitem educit uvam, 
sed tenenim prono deflectens pondere corpus 



iam iam contingit summum radice flagellum, 
hanc nulli agricolae, nulli accoluere iuvenci; 
at si forte eadem'st ulmo coniuncta marito, 
multi illam agricolae, multi accoluere iuvenci. 

The last poem written by Catullus, in many respects the 
most remarkable, is entitled "Attis," the name of a beauti- 
ful youth. The theme is original but repellent to modern 
taste. Simple, direct, and wonderfully rapid in movement, 
the story tells how Attis is inspired to become a priest of 
Cybele, the mother of the gods. Because only by so doing 
can he serve the goddess, the youth mutilates himself and, 
too late, repents. This is the only Greek or Latin poem 
extant in the galliambic meter, so named from the term 
gallus, applied to the priests of Cybele. As a work of pure 
imagination there is nothing in Latin literature to which it 
can be compared. It seems to me utterly untranslatable. 

Some idea of the versification may be conveyed by the 
opening lines of Tennyson's "Boadicea," in which the poet 
has experimented with this meter: 

While about the shores of Mona those Neronian legionaries 
Burnt and broke the grove and altar of the Druid and 

Far in the East, Boadicea, standing loftily charioted, 
Mad and maddening all that heard her in her fierce volubility. 
Girt by half the tribes of Britain, near the colony Camulodune, 
Yelled and shrieked between her daughters o*er a wild con- 

Joseph Warton's remark, in his Essay on Pope, to the effect 
that the "Attis" of Catullus gives a better notion of what 


the Greek dithyramb may have been than any extant re- 
mains of antiquity, shows keen insight and appreciation. 

The Latin language in its classical form was incapable 
of forming compounds, in which respect it was like the 
French. The Greek, it will be recalled, formed compounds 
with as great facility as does the German. Plautus handled 
the idiom while it was still plastic and formed compounds 
with the freedom of genius, and in the " Attis" Catullus also 
used compounds with telling effect. This indicates that 
Latin had not yet reached that stiff and unyielding form 
in which it was cast even as early as the time of Horace. 
One is struck, too, with the richness of diminutive forms 
employed by Catullus all through his works, a usage that 
adds much to the beauty of his language. 

The chief characteristics of the Alexandrian school have 
been mentioned. Catullus was, as we have seen, closely 
connected with it. To him was applied the term doctus, 
which marked one as belonging to the cultured class. It 
will be recalled that the expression is used by the bore in 
the well-known satire of Horace. Trying to force his 
acquaintance upon Horace, he remarks, Noris nos, docti 
sumus ("You should be acquainted with me; I belong to 
the cultured set"). In Catullus* time the term implied 
much. It meant that Ennius and the earlier writers were 
no longer the models to follow; that there was a new 
school of poets who wrote in accordance with the strict 
canons of Greek criticism as expounded by the gram- 
marians. Now it was in this respect that Catullus was 
deeply indebted to the Alexandrians. Roman versification, 
notwithstanding the efforts of his predecessors and con- 



temporaries, had remained strikingly crude. Horace claims 
to have been the first to naturalize the Greek lyric meters. 
We will concede that in handling in Latin the Alcaic and 
Sapphic stanzas he has been unsurpassed. We concede, too, 
that despite the great success of Catullus with the dactylic 
hexameter, its rarest beauty awaited the inspired touch of 
Vergil and that Ovid perfected the elegiac distich. But 
Catullus is the master of the hendecasyllabic and glyconic 
forms. One's ear tells him that in pure melody there is 
little in the language that can equal some of Catullus' 
work. An admirable illustration of this quaHty is the short 
ritual hymn to Diana, the opening stanza of which reads: 

Dianae .Siimus in fide 
puellae et pueri integri; 
Dianam pueri integri 
puellaeque canamus, 

Catullus was remarkably free from the faults of the Alex- 
andrian school. Except in the "Coma Bereneces," which 
was a translation, he shows not a trace of the pedantic or 
obscure. His diction is pure and straightforward. Like 
Heine in German, he produces exquisite effects with the 
plain ordinary words in daily use. In general his language 
is very natural — as far removed as can be from the felici- 
tous but studied phrasing of Horace. 

I do not find that Catullus differs much from other Latin 
poets in his attitude toward nature. Nature in her calm 
and peaceful aspects attracted them: the calm and peaceful 
woods, cleared by the hand of man; the river flowing gently 
between well-kept banks; the flowers in the meadow; and, 



above all, the carefully trimmed and respectable garden. 
Appreciation of the grandeur of the sea and of the majesty 
of mountains is essentially a modern sentiment. Mountains 
were regarded with a shudder by the Romans and the sea 
suggested little but danger and hardship. Catullus never 
mentions the mountains. He shows more feeling for the 
sea, especially in several passages of "Peleus and Thetis." 
The cadence of his verse seems at times charged with the 
life and movement of the waves, as in two lines that bring 
before eye and ear the plunge of the breakers on a long 
stretch of sandy beach: 

Litus ut longe resonante Eoa 
tunditur unda. 

Furthermore, many of the epithets that he applies to the 
sea show that he has the Greek rather than the Roman 
feeling for it. 

The English student of Latin poetic literature feels that 
he is dealing with a range of ideas much more contracted 
than that of the Greeks or that of his own tongue. He 
feels, too, that the Greek point of view is nearer that of his 
own literature than is that of the Roman. He finds in both 
his own and the Greek a profounder feeling for the mys- 
tery of life and the expression of a deeper sympathy between 
man and the rest of nature. The Latin poets, however, 
occasionally show an intensity of feeling and an absorbing 
interest in that for which they care that gives great power 
and strength to some of their work. This ability to throw 
his whole soul into his work permitted Lucretius to invest 
the dry, technical discussion of philosophy with poetic 

^25 1- 


beauty. In Catullus this same quality invests the name of 
Sirmio with the same interest that centers about the "Lu- 
cretilis and Digentia" of Horace, while the warmth of feel- 
ing evinced in the poems addressed to Lesbia gives them 
a vitality unimpaired by the lapse of centuries. 

Catullus died when he was about thirty years of age. He 
may have already done his best work. Had he lived, say 
ten years longer, however, there is at least the possibility, 
in fact the probability, that he would have produced some- 
thing that in scope and finish would have equalled or even 
surpassed the work of his only rival, Horace. 




THE name of Giacomo Boni will probably go down in 
the history of scholarship as that of the greatest archae- 
ologist of modern times. Interest in archaeological investi- 
gation at the present time seems to have become a veritable 
mania. Expeditions are continually being formed and sent 
out by various societies, institutions, and private individuals. 
Formerly restricted to the classical lands, the field of investi- 
gation has spread to Asia, Africa, and America. Wonderful 
results are constantly being heralded. Even our somewhat 
provincial journals contain accounts of the most sensational 
finds, while such papers as the London Times and the New 
Yor\ Times publish articles almost daily upon the progress 
of the work. 

Though one may lack the scientific attitude that must 
form the most important element in the mental equipment 
of an archaeologist, his imagination may be fired by the 
achievements of such men, particularly where behind the 
investigator is an attractive and compelling personality and 
where the work itself closely touches humanity. 

To be a great archaeologist one must not only possess the 
scientific attitude and training, but he must be something 
of a poet and a philosopher. Such a man was Giacomo 
Boni, for many years in charge of the excavations of the 
Roman Forum and the Palatine. It was these qualities of 


poet, dreamer, and philosopher that made it possible for 
Boni to begin work in a field that had been practically 
exhausted and upon which the final word had been uttered 
and to surprise the world with the work of his marvelous 

His chief activities were centered in the Roman Forum 
and on the Palatine. The results attained are well known 
to all persons interested in the world's intellectual progress. 
The repetition of a few details with regard to these discov- 
eries may serve to bring the well-known facts into close 
relation with the life and work of their originator — 
a theme that is interesting and not so well known. 

When the biography of Boni is written, it will unques- 
tionably be a fascinating one. Meanwhile it may be of 
interest to sketch briefly, from the meager material now 
available, the life of this self-sacrificing man of genius, be- 
ginning with the period antedating that of his real life 
work, which began when he was placed in the Forum as 
inspecting architect. 

It is an interesting fact that practically all the great lit- 
erary men of Roman literature were not Romans, that is, 
natives of the city of Rome — not Vergil, Horace, nor 
Cicero — and so through the list. So it was with Boni. 

Rome now claims Giacomo Boni and she has given him 
the unprecedented honor of burial on the Palatine amid 
the laurels which he loved and which surround the simple 
home, his Villa Farnesina, as he named it, where he lived 
and worked so many years. Venice, not Rome, was his 
birthplace. It was appropriate that a son of the "Queen of 
the Adriatic" should come of a seafaring line. His father 



died while Giacomo was still young and he received his 
education in the ordinary schools o£ Venice and Pisa. After 
receiving an elementary training he became a draughtsman 
in the office that had charge of the restoration of the Palazzo 
Ducale, and it was while holding this position that he 
studied for his degree at the Higher School of Architecture. 

Boni became also an accomplished linguist, having taught 
himself Latin, Greek, French, and German. It is said that 
he so lived himself into the Latin tongue and its forms of 
thought that he found it easier to express himself in Latin 
than in Italian. It is of interest to English-speaking people 
to learn that he taught himself English primarily in order 
to read and translate Ruskin, whom he greatly admired. 
He met Ruskin for the first time in 1882, while still in the 
service of the bureau in charge of the restoration of the 
Ducal Palace, and it is beyond question that Ruskin exer- 
cised a decisive influence upon his taste and tendencies. 
It is said that in his devotion to study Boni would forget 
even his frugal meals and that on more than one occasion 
the winter dawn surprised him, wrapped in an old cloak 
and seated by the table on which burned a candle, by the 
dim light of which he had studied the night through. 

One can well appreciate the physical discomfort of this 
young man, for it can be bitterly cold in Venice in winter. 
Even today, in the great universities of Rome, Naples, and 
Palermo, heat is unknown in many of the ordinary lecture 
rooms even in the depth of winter, and one's stiff fingers 
can scarcely guide his pen — fingers, that is, not hardened 
by experience. 

While holding this position Boni wrote a number of 


articles criticizing the methods pursued in the restoration 
of the Ducal Palace. He lost his place when it became 
known that he was their author, but was afterward rein- 
stated. The Venetian papers would no longer publish the 
articles that he continued to write, but they were accepted 
by some of the Roman journals. They caught the attention 
of Premier Crispi, and their author was summoned to 
Rome and given the commission of reporting upon the 
monuments of Apulia. 

Boni's criticisms were directed against the insincere 
methods of restoration and preservation adopted by the 
Italian government in the eighties. When Crispins govern- 
ment sent him into Apulia to report upon the Hohenstaufen 
castles and other Swabian monuments, he did his work 
with thoroughness, preparing himself for it by making 
a study of the Swabian period in Italy. The gist of his 
recommendations was that all work of preservation should 
be in harmony with the spirit of the original builders and 
should never take such form as to cause confusion between 
the old and the new. These reports made him known to 
Pope Leo XIII, who summoned him as an advisor on the 
condition of the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. At this 
action the ire of the official architects was aroused, but the 
Pope gave Boni his support. For years Boni had to contend 
against the jealousy of petty officialdom. 

Even after he was made regular director of the excava- 
tions, the salary incident to that office was not granted, 
and for many years, although conducting work that was 
bringing renown to his country, his meager wage was un- 
der one thousand dollars a year. 



Of this pittance, what he could spare was used in assist- 
ing those of his workmen who found themselves in diffi- 
culties and in purchasing plants mentioned by the classic 
writers with which to adorn the Forum and the Palatine. 
For Boni was a lover of beauty and wished to conceal the 
scars of excavation by the luxuriance of nature. It is due 
solely to him that the Palatine and the Forum are now 
parks of beauty as well as centers of archaeological and 
historical interest. 

One of the characters in Anatole France's book The 
White Stone, a wonderful vivification of the philosophy, 
history, and life of the early years of the Roman Empire, 
who had for several months been a witness of the assiduous 
labors of Boni's workmen, of their intelligence, and of their 
prompt obedience to orders, inquired of the director of the 
excavations how it was that he obtained such yeoman's 
work from his laborers. "By leading their life," replied 
Boni. "Together with them do I turn over the soil; I im- 
part to them what we are together seeking for, and I im- 
press on their minds the beauty of our common work. 
They feel an interest in an enterprise, the grandeur of 
which they apprehend but vaguely. I have seen their faces 
pale with enthusiasm when unearthing the tomb of Romu- 
lus. I am their everyday comrade and if one of them is ill, 
I take a seat at his bedside. I place a great faith in them 
as they do in me and so it is that I boast of faithful work- 

On his return to Rome after the Apulian commission, 
Boni found employment as inspecting architect in the De- 
partment of Fine Arts. The idea possessed him, however, 


that if he could dig in the Roman Forum, he could dis- 
cover the secret of that mysterious place. This was a bold, 
wild, and revolutionary idea in the eyes of all the eminent 
authorities of the time. The first systematic investigation 
had been conducted by Fea, Canina, and, after 1870, Rosa, 
Fiorelli, Lanciani, and Gatti. The Forum had already been 
so far unearthed as to show the remains of most of the 
buildings of the Imperial Age. The topography of the 
Forum was fairly well established and an eminent authority 
had declared that further excavation would be in vain. 

It was not until 1898 that Boni obtained his chance, and 
what advantage he took of it the sequel will tell. In that 
year Crispi's minister of public instruction, Guido Bac- 
celli, commissioned Boni as an architect to strengthen the 
Forum monuments and arrange in some sort of order the 
blocks of stone that lay in confusion on the surface of the 
Forum, but he was given strict orders not to dig. He took 
up his abode in the Forum and wrote thus to Ruskin: 
"Living in the Forum, there was born within me a close 
intimacy with those stones which had at first sight appeared 
mute and indifferent; and moved by force unknown be- 
fore, I set out on my journey." His life work had now 
really begun. 

Intuition is a mark of genius and baffles analysis, but the 
following remark of Boni will cast some light on the secret 
of his powers: 

The darkness which time gathers upon the memories of the 
past grows more and more thick and impervious in proportion 
as one presumes to enlighten them at once by the artificial 
light of one's own knowledge — while he who approaches the 



unknown in all humility, searching for truth and not for a con- 
firmation of his own forecasts, living in an unknown milieu, 
gets accustomed, little by little, to the twilight, pierces it, dis- 
cerns, touches with his own hands, never tires of gathering 
positive data, elements for criticism, feeds them with his own 
brain, which will spontaneously elaborate them and yield, per- 
chance, the instinctive solution of a problem or point out where 
to carry on a thorough exploration to resolve it. 

In such a spirit he began work in the Forum. With 
great secrecy, before dawn on winter mornings by the dim 
light of a candle, he delved beneath the pavement of the 
Comitium, the place of public meeting at the lower end 
of the Forum. There, only eighteen inches below the im- 
perial level, he discovered a slab of black marble, known 
henceforth as the Lapis Niger, or Black Stone, which in 
olden times was said to mark the tomb of Romulus. Boni 
covered his find and made a confidential report to Baccelli, 
emphasizing the fact that the discovery would bring great 
glory to the administration. The minister visited the 
Forum, the stone was uncovered, and the minister was pho- 
tographed standing upon it! 

Boni had been led to believe that such a black stone 
might exist from a few references to it by Greek and 
Roman writers. In Festus, a grammarian of the second 
century A. D., we may read: "The Black Stone in the 
Comitium marks a place of ill omen, destined as a grave to 
Romulus, although the hero was not actually buried there: 
others say that either Faustulus, the Palatine shepherd, or 
Hostilius, the grandfather of King TuUius, was buried 


We are informed elsewhere that M. Terentius Varro, 
whose great erudition earned him the title of the most 
learned of the Romans, thought that the Lapis Niger 
marked the tomb of Romulus because, as he says, "two 
stone lions have been erected to guard it, like that of a 
hero; and because funeral orations in honor of great men 
are still delivered from the rostra close by." Varro belonged 
to the generation before Cicero. Dionysius, the Greek 
writer on Roman antiquities, who flourished in the first 
century B. C, mentions one lion as being visible in his day. 
The two pedestals on which the lions rested are now clearly 
discernible on either side of the Lapis Niger. 

This discovery made a tremendous sensation and was the 
first of the imposing list that made Boni famous. A little 
beneath this stone he subsequently discovered an ancient 
truncated column called a "cippus" or "stele," on which is 
carved the oldest known Latin inscription. This dates from 
about the middle of the fifth century B. C. The letters are 
Greek, running in different directions in alternate lines, 
from one end to the other on the four sides of the cippus. 
The meaning has not as yet been satisfactorily made out, 
although Ceci, an Italian archaeologist, has made a transla- 
tion accepted by some. It seems to be a direction as to the 
manner of performing sacrifices. 

These monuments and others to be enumerated later, 
dating back to the fifth century B. C. and beyond, were of 
profound historical significance. Credit was restored to 
some of the statements of the historian Livy, and evidence 
was given of a Roman history and civilization at a date at 



which some eminent German archaeologists and historians 
had declared that there was none in existence. 

There followed the exploration of the temple of Vesta, 
one of Boni's great achievements; the Lacus Curtius, de- 
scribed by Livy, into which Quintus Curtius was said to 
have thrown himself when he dedicated his life to the 
manes to save his country; and many others. 

From earliest times the lower portions of the site of 
Rome had been visited periodically by destructive floods. 
Today, not very far from the Pantheon, there stands the 
massive Collegio Romano, a structure of the sixteenth cen- 
tury that was formerly an educational institution of the 
Church and now serves to house what we may call the Col- 
lege of Arts of the University of Rome. On one of the 
walls of the structure, under the colonnade surrounding the 
main court, is a mark and inscription stating that this was 
the high-water line of the overflow of the Tiber in the 
seventies. The Forum Romanum is on a level even lower 
and it was frequently devastated by the furious Tiber. 
Now, just why, despite the numerous high points in the 
city, was its very heart placed in this precarious position? 

Boni had often pondered upon this problem and its solu- 
tion is perhaps the most striking example of his almost 
uncanny power of intuition. The problem formulated itself 
in his mind thus: "Why should the Forum ever have been 
the Forum? Why should the Romans have chosen as the 
center of their civic life the bottom of a marshy valley liable 
to flood at every rise of the Tiber, and why should the 
Sacred Way lead down to it?" 


Boni believed that the earliest Latins were of Aryan 
stock who had come into Europe from northern India by 
way of Persia and Asia Minor. He felt that the solution 
of many of the obscure points in regard to the religious 
beliefs and practices might be found in the sacred writings 
in the Sanscrit tongue, notably in the Vedas. As he made 
no secret of this belief, many regarded him as on the verge 
of lunacy. Believing that he might solve the problem of the 
Forum in this way, he plunged into the study of those 
writings. One day he came upon his clue, a passage ordain- 
ing that the dead must be buried in ground sloping toward 
still waters. He said to himself that the still waters were 
there in the marsh at the bottom of the valley — it will be 
remembered that the Forum was possible only after the 
construction, in the time of the kings, of the Cloaca 
Maxima, or great sewer, which drained the marsh. The 
sloping ground was there in the clivus sacer, down which 
the Sacred Way ran from the summit to the level of the 
Comitium. All that was to be done was to find in the 
Forum the early Latin burial ground, the prehistoric 
necropolis. It must be near the Sacred Way. 

Boni sunk shaft after shaft. The work was difficult be- 
cause the ground was covered with buildings of the medie- 
val and other periods, and there was but a Hmited area in 
which to work. Twelve shafts produced no results. An 
EngUshman, Wickham Steed, with whom Boni, as the 
result of a great bereavement, had lived for some litde time, 
thus tells the story: 

Twice a week, even after he had ceased to live with me, he 
came to luncheon, always bringing or sending an armful of 



greenery or flowers from the Forum to grace the table. One 
day in the hot July of 1900, he turned up looking like a man 
inspired. "I shall find it this afternoon," he exclaimed. "I 
walked over the place this morning and I felt it burn my feet! 
I will telephone as soon as I have found it." Toward five 
o'clock he telephoned that he had found it and called me to 
see it. He had, in fact, found, by the side of the Sacred Way, 
about level with the facade of the Basilica of Antoninus and 
Faustina, a prehistoric urn of black earthenware and afterward 
uncovered twenty-six tombs of various shapes and sizes. The 
urns, containing the ashes of the dead, were small receptacles 
fashioned in the form of a primitive hut; these were placed in 
a larger vessel containing various dishes which held food for 
the departed soul. 

Boni experimented with clay found in the neighborhood 
and succeeded in making some urns of exactly the same 
texture as those he had found. This old burial ground 
antedated the traditional date of the founding of Rome by 
one or two centuries and formed a conclusive refutation of 
the theories of the sceptical Theodore Mommsen and his 
school. Some of the tombs were for inhumation as well as 
for cremation. 

Anatole France represents Boni speaking thus as he meas- 
ured some skulls of these prehistoric Romans. Holding in 
his hand the skull of a child, he says: 

"Child, thou who sleepest since the days of the god Quirinus, 
an Empire has passed over thy coflSn and the same stars which 
shone at thy birth are about to light up the skies above us. 
The unfathomable space which separates the hours of your 
life from those of our countrymen constitutes but an imper- 
ceptible moment in the life of the universe." 



One of the characters in the same book addresses these 
words to Boni: 

"And so, my good Giacomo Boni, not content with seeking 
in the Forum the monuments of the Emperors, those of the 
Republic and those of the Kings, you must fain sink down 
into the soil which bore flora and fauna that have vanished, 
drive your spade into the quarternery and the tertiary, pene- 
trate the pliocene, the mioscene, and the eocene; from Latin 
archaeology you wander to prehistoric archaeology and to pale- 
ontology. The salons are expressing alarm at the depths to 
which you are venturing. Countess Pasolini would like to 
know where you intend to stop and you are represented in 
a little satirical sheet as coming out at the antipodes, breathing 
the words, Adesso va benel" 

Boni seemed not to have heard. He was examining a clay 
vessel, still damp and covered with ooze. His pale-blue, ex- 
pressive eyes darkened while critically examining the humble 
work of man for some unrevealed trace of the mysterious past, 
but resumed their natural hue as the Commendatore's mind 
wandered off into revery. 

Boni's next task was the supervision of the excavation on 
the Palatine Hill overlooking the Forum. This was the 
site of prehistoric Rome. In the time of Cicero and Caesar 
it was the residential section of the noble Roman families; 
in the early imperial period it was the abode of the em- 
perors. An Italian scholar, long a resident of London^ who 
visited Boni in 1914 gives this account of him at the period 
when he was engaged in this work: 

I was told that he would probably be found in the Viri- 
darium, the old imperial flower garden, in which he was now 
collecting all the flowers and plants mentioned by classical 
Roman writers. On reaching the Viridarium I saw three 


workmen bending over flower beds, dressing plants, and upon 
my asking one of them where the Director could be found, 
"Here I am," replied one of the gardeners, dressed in plain, 
rough clothes with a large straw hat on his head, and on being 
acquainted with my purpose in coming from England, "Do 
you really want to lecture there on the Palatine?" he asked. 
"Well, let us go for a walk." 

He took me first for a brief visit to his latest discoveries of 
the Republican houses underlying the Domus Augustianae and 
then the subject which had lately taken hold of his imagina- 
tion seized him entirely. We visited the Viridarium, looking 
toward the Capitol, the nursery garden of the laurels, cypresses, 
myrtle, and pine trees; his plantation of violets at the foot of 
ancient walls; of red and white roses, lilies, and other classical 
flowers before the temples and in the house of the Vestal 
Virgins; and the clumps of cytisus everywhere among the 
ruins, with their gold flowers. 

In the meantime he was explaining, by abrupt sentences and 
as if talking to himself, his plan for restoring Latin conscious- 
ness through the tangible evocation of the ancient Roman life 
and spirit. 

The Palatine and Forum were not merely palimpsests on 
which to read the past history of Rome; they were a living, 
much-needed lesson on the early simplicity of the life of our 
Roman ancestors and of the fate that befell their degenerate 
descendants; of the necessity of going back to direct contact 
with nature by a return to agriculture and the simple life if 
Italy was to receive a fresh source of inspiration, to be saved 
morally and economically, and to proceed with newly gathered 
force to her destiny. 

On the Palatine Boni made excavations on the site of 
Domitian's palace. Here, at a lower level, were discovered 


two houses of the repubUcan era, with frescoes and marble 
statues intact. Another find was the stone slab, the mundus, 
that in early days was believed to close the entrance to the 
infernal regions. The site of the palace of Augustus was 
fixed. Valuable results were obtained from the area occu- 
pied by Domitian's palace, for many buildings of great 
historical value had been destroyed in the process of its 

It has been noted that Boni's method of procedure was 
remarkable in that he so successfully disclosed earlier re- 
mains without materially damaging later buildings. In this 
respect he surpassed all his predecessors. In his own land 
recognition of this great archaeologist came late. Foreign 
countries showed their marks of appreciation first. He was 
called to lecture in London, at Oxford, at Cambridge, in 
Vienna, and in Germany. He was visited, while director 
of the Forum and Palatine excavations, by all the most 
distinguished visitors to Rome — emperors, kings and 
queens, statesmen, churchmen, historians, scientists, men of 
letters, and, from our own country, an ex-president, Roose- 
velt, and a president, Wilson. Foreign universities show- 
ered honors upon him. Finally his own country made him 
a senator. 

He seems to have charmed by his personality all with 
whom he came in contact. He had power to impart life to 
the dry bones of archaeology and to make it speak to others 
as he had made it speak to himself. He became a man of 
profound and varied erudition and he was always tireless 
in his labors. 

Beside his early work in connection with the restoration 


of the Ducal Palace at Venice, he afterward had full charge 
there, did work of the same nature in the Basilica of St. 
Mark, and was commissioned to rebuild the Campanile at 
Venice when it crumbled with age in 1910. That his advice 
in regard to the preservation of the frescoes in the Sistine 
Chapel was sought, has already been mentioned. 

His adornment of the Forum and the Palatine with 
a profusion of the shrubs and flowers mentioned in the 
classics was not his only work in this line. The Vale of 
Clitumnus, the island of Torcello in the Venetian lagoons, 
and the waters of the Mincio owe much to his fostering 

Boni's latest find of interest on the Palatine was a winged 
figure of Victory. This was discovered during the third 
year of the World War and Boni viewed it as an augury of 
his country's ultimate success. 

The latter period of his life up to his final breakdown 
was one of intense activity. As soon as Italy entered the 
war he eagerly offered his services. He first devised some 
special boots and clothing calculated to protect the soldiers 
on the frontier, who were exposed to the rigors of the Alps. 
He was no less active in reconstruction work after the war. 
Afforestation, the fight against malaria, the utilization of 
water power, the perfection of chemical fertilizers, the ex- 
tension of grain growing, and the substitution of nonalco- 
holic grape juice for wine were included among his in- 

In 1916 he suffered a stroke of paralysis as the result of 
exposure to the Alpine cold. He recovered to some extent 
and resumed his place as director of the Forum and Pala- 

4 41). 


tine excavations. His last attack was brought on as the 
result of fatigue incurred in a five-weeks tour through the 
Marshes, which he had undertaken to study with the idea 
of promoting intensive grain culture. He passed away on 
July 10, 1925. 

Probably the most potent influence on his life, in the 
realm of art, was that of Ruskin; the next, that of Carducci, 
the greatest ItaHan poet of modern Italy, who instilled into 
him his passionate love of his fatherland. His English 
friend, Wickham Steed, already mentioned, relates that 
"often on a summer evening or winter night, he would 
take from the bookshelf a volume of Carducci and read 
with vibrating voice and gleaming eye, verses from the 
poem entitled 'Anniversary of the Foundation of Rome.' " 
Of the verses that he may have read, one can well imagine 
that he pronounced these with the greatest fervor: 

Salve, dea Roma! Chi disconosceti 
cerchiato ha il senno di fredda tenebra 
e a lui nel reo cuore germoglia 
torpida la selva di barbaric, 

and particularly the stanza. 

Salve dea Roma! Chinato a i ruderi 
del Foro, io seguo con dolci lacrime 
e adoro i tuoi sparsi vestigi, 
patria, diva, santa genetrice. 




THE picture of Roman life in the first century of the 
empire, drawn almost exclusively as it formerly was 
from the annals of court life, from the bitter pages of the 
satirist, or from the indictments of the moral reformer, has 
been presented either in somber or in lurid hues. It is fortu- 
nate, therefore, that we have a means of correcting this im- 
pression and of obtaining a saner and more reasonable view 
of the conditions of life and culture in the civilized world at 
this period. The material for this reconstruction of our 
views lies ready at hand in the collection of letters that 
Pliny sent to his numerous friends and acquaintances of 
the Roman world. 

The historian and careful student, correcting the dis- 
torted view in the light of these documents, substantiated 
as they often are by the evidences of inscriptions, has long 
ago abandoned the theory that society of the first century 
was all, or even predominately, corrupt. 

So powerful a hold, however, has the genius of Tacitus, 
the moral reformer, upon the minds of men, so lurid are the 
colors of Juvenal's scathing indictments, and so scandalous 
the stories of court life from the pen of Suetonius, that the 
popular mind still retains a wrong impression of the spirit 
and ideals of the age. For still, as in the days of Horace, 



the human mind exempUfies the truth that "easier 'tis to 
learn and recollect what moves derision than what claims 

The careful observer of French life, though acknowledg- 
ing the existence of a society for which CatuUe Mendes 
wrote and the truth of the pictures drawn by his pen, is 
inclined to balance this with Rene Bazin's representation 
of ideals of life and to be convinced of the essential sound- 
ness of French society. 

Were we to base our judgment of American morality 
upon the life of the smart sets in our large cities, glimpses 
of which occasionally flash into public view, we might well 
be pessimists. That such life is the abnormal and the un- 
usual we know. Society in every age presents just these 
startling contrasts, a fact that is sometimes forgotten in the 
treatment of the early empire. 

We do not deny the essential truth of Tacitus' picture of 
court intrigue, though often in his moral indignation he 
has painted characters blacker than they were. We simply 
say that this was not the^ whole nor even the fundamental 
part of Roman life. We do not say that such characters 
and such excesses as Juvenal describes did not exist. We 
simply say that this was not the normal thing; if it had 
been, society must have dissolved from very rottenness 
long before it did. When we read the satire of Petronius 
upon the nouveaux riches, we recognize its truth and that 
it still hits oflF large numbers in the modern world. 

We propose as an antidote to describe briefly that phase 
of Roman society that was fundamentally pure, cultured, 
and inspired by high ideals of duty and public service and 

^ 44 ]- 


to draw this picture largely from the pages of Pliny. This 
evidence will be, to a large extent, concrete, external, indi- 
rect. For we have to do not with a philosopher or a writer 
of commanding genius but simply with a cultured Roman 
gentleman who has left us, in his sketches, which are 
largely of provincial and municipal life, a record of price- 
less historical value. 

The evidence, though coming from a man intensely 
interested in literary activities, one who counted as his 
friends most of the literary men of the time, is the more 
valuable because it is the evidence of one engaged in active 
professional and public life at Rome — a man whose official 
career culminated in the high and honorable position of 
imperial governor of the province of Bithynia and Pontus 
in Asia Minor. Pliny's early active life was spent at Rome, 
where he held at one time or another all of the more im- 
portant public offices; he must have been as well informed 
on poUtics as any man of his generation. 

Political campaigns were carried on with vigor and en- 
thusiasm, and Pliny was himself a good campaigner. He 
writes and works untiringly in behalf of his friends and 
gives them his hearty support. He tells of the qualifications 
of a friend running for the office of tribune, praises his 
family and his own sterling qualities, and ends with the 
remark, "I therefore buttonhole my friends and entreat 
them in his behalf. I make a regular campaign and go 
from house to house and from public square to public 
square. I test my powers of persuasion and my influence." 

Ha,if ecommended to the governor of Pannonia for pub- 
lic office a friend whos'e birth, charm in conversation, skill 



as a lawyer, and ability as a writer are cited as proofs of 
his worthiness. We often note with perhaps a shade of 
envy the high qualifications of Roman officials in respect 
of official training, mental power, literary ability, general 
culture, and, as we shall see, high ideals of public service. 
Pliny also remarks upon the scrupulous conduct of a cer- 
tain public treasurer, who wrote to the emperor asking 
what he should do with a sum of money he had received 
to pay one of his clerks who had died before his salary was 
due. The emperor referred the case to the senate. A claim 
was made by the man's heirs, but the senate voted that the 
sum revert to the treasury. 

It is true that the surviving magistracies of the republic, 
such as the consulate and tribunate, were not the offices of 
importance they once had been; that, in fact, the incumbents 
were the ministers of the prince. Within certain limits, 
nevertheless, these positions admitted of initiative, and the 
Romans held them in great esteem and had high ideals 
of the obligations they imposed. 

No stronger expression of this sentiment has been ut- 
tered than the remarks of Pliny in reference to the tri- 
bunate. A friend, a lawyer, had written asking whether he 
thought it proper for one to engage in private practice 
while holding that position. Pliny replied that it depended 
upon how one regarded the office, whether as a sacred, 
inviolable trust, or as a meaningless shadow. He himself, 
when tribune, had abstained from pleading private cases 
for fear that by so doing he might impair the dignity of the 
office or might not prove so unbiased and fair in the admin- 
istration of his duties as he should. Perhaps Pliny did view 


the dignity of certain public offices with a degree of con- 
sideration that their importance at that period did not war- 
rant. It is, however, a laudable weakness and all that he 
says and does indicates that in his time there was a large 
element in the state that took an enlightened and lofty 
view of public duties. 

Even levity at public functions Pliny cannot condone. In 
order to remedy certain abuses the senate had introduced 
the secret ballot. This gave occasion for unseemly pranks. 
Some of the voters wrote down their own names instead of 
those of the candidates. Jokes and even obscenities were 
found on some of the ballots. Pliny indignantly remarks 
that depraved characters are led to such a pitch of boldness 
by the thought that "no one will find it out." 

Pliny's conception of the lawyer's profession is no less 
high. He is not blind to the faults of the day and he com- 
plains of the degeneracy of the legal oratory of the time; 
complains that he is kept busy with civil cases but that he 
derives little pleasure from his activity as the cases are gen- 
erally not important and the people involved not distin- 
guished. The careful training of the olden time had given 
place to a presumption that allowed young men who had 
not yet perfected themselves as orators to force their way 
to the bar; the demoraUzing practice of securing hired ap- 
plauders is denounced. Pliny sometimes feels inclined to 
give up his practice because of these conditions, but he is 
deterred by a sense of duty and obligation to his friends. 

On the other hand, in many letters he speaks enthusi- 
astically of cases in which he is engaged and of the literary 
appreciation displayed by his audience. The following letter 

-I 47 }> 


is quoted as giving a fair example of Pliny's style, as show- 
ing the character of the cases that came before the civil 
court in vv^hich he did most of his pleading, and, finally, 
as aptly depicting Pliny's naive literary vanity. The letter 
opens with a line of Vergil that represents Vulcan address- 
ing his Cyclopes and directing them to lay aside all other 
work and prepare arms for Aeneas. "Cyclopes of Aetna,'* 
he cried, "have done! Leave every task unfinished and re- 
ceive my new command." Pliny continues, addressing his 
friend : 

Thus, whether you are engaged in reading or writing, away 
with your books and papers and take up my divine oration, as 
those Cyclopes did the arms of Aeneas. How could I introduce 
my speech to you with an air of more importance? But in 
sober earnest I put it into your hand as the best of my per- 
formances; for it is myself only that I pretend to emulate. It 
was spoken in defense of Attia Variola, and the dignity of the 
person interested, the singularity of the occasion, together with 
the majesty of the tribunal, conspire to render it extremely re- 
markable. Picture to yourself a lady ennobled not only by her 
birth but by her marriage to a person of praetorian rank, dis- 
inherited by her father and suing for her patrimony in the 
four courts eleven days after this old man, seized with a grand 
passion at fourscore years of age, had brought home a step- 
mother to his daughter. One hundred and eighty judges sat 
at the trial (for that is the number when the four chambers of 
the court sit together); friends innumerable attended both par- 
ties; the benches were thronged and a dense crowd encircled 
the whole court in a promiscuous ring; at the same time num- 
bers pressed about the tribunal; even the very galleries were 
lined with men and women bending over (who, though they 

i 48 y 


might see fairly well, could be barely able to hear a word); in 
fact, fathers, daughters, and stepmothers were all warmly inter- 
esting themselves in the issue of this important trial. The 
opinions of the judges were divided, two of the chambers being 
for us and two against us. It is somewhat remarkable that the 
same question debated before the same judges and pleaded by 
the same advocates and at the same time should happen to 
receive so different a decision, in fact one would almost imagine 
it was more than accident. However, in the final event, the 
mother-in-law, who claimed under the will a sixth part of the 
inheritance, lost the case. Her son was also denied his preten- 
sions; though he had been disinherited by his own father with- 
out daring to vindicate his own patrimony, yet he had the 
singular assurance to demand that of another. I have been thus 
particular in giving you a detail of the circumstances that at- 
tended this case, not only that my letter might inform you of 
what you could not learn by my speech but also (for I will 
honestly confess the artifice) that you might read it with more 
pleasure, by being thus introduced, as it were, into the audience. 
And, extensive as this pleading is, I do not despair of its recom- 
mending itself to you as much as if it had the grace of brevity. 
The abundance of the matter, the just order in which it is ar- 
ranged, the little narratives interspersed throughout, together 
with the variety of style, will always give it an air of novelty. 
I will even venture to say to you (what I dare not to anyone 
else) that a spirit of great fire and sublimity breaks out in 
many parts of it, at the same time that in others it is wrought 
up with much delicacy and closeness of reasoning. I was fre- 
quently obliged to intermingle my computations with the ele- 
vated and pathetic and to descend from the orator almost to the 
accountant; so that you will sometimes imagine the scene was 
changed from the solemnity of the court of four chambers to 



the familiarity of a private consultation. I gave head to my 
indignation, my resentment, and my compassion, and in steer- 
ing through this illustrious case as in a vast sea, I was borne 
along before every varying gust. In a word, my particular 
friends are wont to consider this speech, I will venture to re- 
peat, as my best performance, esteeming it the Ctesiphon of my 
orations; whether with reason or not, you will easily judge, 
since you have them all so perfectly in your memory as to be 
able, while you are reading them, to compare it with my former 
efforts without the trouble of turning to them. Farewell. 

Elsewhere Pliny relates that during a civil suit he was 
conducting the crowd was so great that he was obliged to 
cross the presiding officer's platform to reach his place and 
that a young gentleman whose tunic was torn in the press 
remained there during the seven hours that he spoke. 

In matters of style Pliny was an avowed disciple of 
Cicero. His epistolary style is sparkling and effective, but 
bears evidence of painstaking care. His speeches have all 
perished except his panegyric upon Trajan, which can 
hardly be a fair example of his legal oratory. 

The great state trials, such as those in which provincial 
governors were arraigned before the senate for maladminis- 
tration, offered great opportunities for capable lawyers. 
Pliny appeared in at least three such cases, the most famous 
of which was his prosecution, in behalf of the province of 
Africa, of Marius Priscus, a case which, for importance and 
dignity, can be compared to that of Cicero against Verres, 
governor of Sicily, or to the impeachment of Warren 
Hastings, governor of India, in modern times. 

As remarked before, there was scarcely a man of literary 
eminence at Rome whom Pliny did not know, and we find 



enough material touching Hterary men and tendencies in 
the letters to fill a volume. At this point it will suffice to 
say that educated Romans of literary tastes at this period, 
more than before, devoted themselves to the cultivation of 
poetry. This was due to their type of education, in which 
the study of the poets was the piece de resistance during the 
formative period of the pupil's life, as well as to the loss of 
free republican life and the consequent curtailing of public 

Ancient publishing houses had but indifferent means of 
bringing new works to the notice of the public and it be- 
came the custom, and in Pliny's time the fashion, for an 
author to give a recitation when he desired to announce 
a new work. Pliny regarded attendance at such functions 
as a social obligation of the most binding sort. He rarely 
finds fault with the members of his own circle, but he does 
criticize the careless and perfunctory way in which some 
of his acquaintances perform this duty. Why, some of them 
go so far as to slip out of the room and remain in the 
garden until informed by their footmen, whom they have 
stationed at a strategic point for the purpose, of the ap- 
proaching end of the reading! Then some of them slip in 
unnoticed, while others swagger in as though they did not 
think it worth while to conceal their efforts to escape bore- 
dom. It was in reference to another function of the sort, 
where one of the audience upset the gravity of the occasion 
by venturing a joke (a very mild one, by the way), that 
PHny remarks that "if one is to give a recitation he must 
be careful not only to have good sense himself, but to see 
that none but perfectly sensible people are invited." 

-[51 V 


Social duties imposed by strict Roman etiquette were 
very exacting and Pliny often complains of the time con- 
sumed in this manner. Morning receptions, ceremonies of 
investiture of the toga and of the sealing of wills, visits of 
congratulation on occasions of every official success, be- 
trothal ceremonies, marriages — Pliny is glad when he can 
flee to the country and avoid the incessant round. 

The betrothal ceremonies were, as in pre-revolutionary 
Russia, somewhat formal occasions. We have an instructive 
letter by Pliny in reply to a request that he keep his eye 
open for a suitable match for the daughter of one of his 
distinguished friends, now deceased. It is of course un- 
derstood that the arrangements for a marriage among the 
Romans of position, as among the peoples of the conti- 
nent of Europe, were all made by the families and not by 
the individuals immediately concerned. The letter indicates 
the qualities considered desirable in a husband. Pliny had 
in mind an ideal mate, he says, a young man descended 
from an honorable and ancient family. He had already 
held the principal offices of state, thus freeing his pro- 
spective relatives from the obligation of assisting him in 
attainment of them. Acilius himself is in robust health, 
full-blooded, active, of good character; he has the manners 
of a gentleman and a dignified carriage. Pliny remarks 
that the modesty of maidens should at least be rewarded 
with a husband of personal attractiveness. He states further 
that the gentleman has ample means and suggests that per- 
haps, in view of the character of the families interested, he 
should not mention this; but as a matter of fact it is some- 
thing that must be taken into account, for even the laws of 



tKe state have fixed ranks in society on the basis of posses- 
sions and then, too, there will be fairly expensive establish- 
ments to keep up. 

The establishments that a Roman of Pliny's position 
maintained were both numerous and elaborate. Pliny him- 
self was not very wealthy, but he possessed several estates 
and houses in Italy. Of one of these, a fine villa on the sea- 
shore at Laurentum, he gives us a detailed account. It was 
to such retreats that he loved to retire at times to avoid the 
social duties of the capitol. 

The Laurentian villa was a winter house where he spent 
some months each year. It was but seventeen miles from 
Rome and when Pliny was very busy he found it quite 
possible to travel back and forth daily, on horseback or in 
a carriage. This villa was therefore convenient and, as he 
remarked, not very expensive to keep up. Passing through 
the courtyard, we find ourselves in another court formed 
by semicircular porticos on either side. These are provided 
with windows making the court cozy and warm. Passing 
through a pleasant main room, we come to a handsome 
hall running toward the seashore. On every side of this 
hall are French windows, permitting a view of the sea from 
three sides; from the fourth we can look back through the 
villa to the woods and mountains beyond. On the left is 
a large drawing room and beyond this a second room, so 
arranged that one window receives the rays of the rising 
sun and another those of the setting sun. In a protected 
angle formed by the dining room and this drawing-room 
is the family gymnasium, near which is a semicircular 
room so arranged as to receive the sun all day long. The 


walls are provided with cases containing a collection of 
those authors that one likes to read and re-read. Next is a 
bedroom, heated by a hot air flue from the furnace. The 
rest of this side of the house is devoted to the slaves and 
freedmen of the family. In the opposite wing is a tasteful 
bedroom and a small dining room. The elaborate bath to 
which the Romans were addicted, with its hot room, cool- 
ing room, hot and cold plunge, swimming pool, rubbing 
room, and so forth, is situated in this wing. 

The villa is provided with a number of large and small 
dining rooms, a tennis court, a running track, storehouses, 
a well-supplied kitchen garden, and other accessories that 
we may not stop to enumerate. Pliny's house was doubt- 
less tastefully furnished, although the Romans used far less 
furniture than we do. Pliny was somewhat of an admirer 
of works of art and he grows enthusiastic over a piece of 
that famous compound of gold, silver, and copper known 
as Corinthian bronze. This particular piece, an antique, 
represented in a most realistic manner the figure of an 
aged man — the thin, receding hair, pinched face, shrivelled 
limbs — all true to life. Pliny purchased this, not to adorn 
his own home, but to erect in a public place in his native 
city, Como, for all to enjoy. 

The obligations imposed upon wealth, which had always 
been heavy at Rome, were guarded by a strong public senti- 
ment. During the period we are considering there devel- 
oped a great broadening of viewpoint as to the scope of 
public obligations, and there was displayed a spirit of phi- 
lanthropy and humanitarianism that may v^dthout exaggera- 
tion be compared to that of the present time. The zeal of 


private citizens for beautifying their cities has never been 
surpassed. Inscriptions at Pompeii and upon the stones ot 
the ruins of Greek cities in the Orient give an idea of the 
exalted sense of state obUgation felt by the well-to-do dur- 
ing this period. It was a private citizen who bore the cost 
of an aqueduct for Bordeaux, a cost estimated at eight 
hundred thousand dollars, and another expended four hun- 
dred thousand on the walls of Marseilles. 

We need not be surprised, then, to hear that among pub- 
lic acts of generosity and philanthropy, too numerous to 
enumerate, were Pliny's endowment of an orphan asylum 
at Como and his gift of fifty thousand dollars for a public 
library and one of five thousand dollars for its endowment. 
He offered to pay one-third of the salary of a competent 
teacher to start a school at Como, so that the young men 
of the place need not go to Milan, as they were doing, for 
their education. He said that he would gladly have given 
the whole amount had he not wished to make the parents 
partners in the transaction and thus doubly insure the selec- 
tion of a capable teacher. He wanted to keep the matter 
free from politics, which sometimes plays a part when 
teachers are selected by the state. He urged that as large 
a contribution as possible be made, for he was desirous that 
his third should be no insignificant sum. 

He gave a public bath and provided a fund for an annual 
public banquet. He was as generous toward individuals. 
We find him giving fifteen thousand dollars to a fellow 
townsman that he might have enough to qualify for the 
Order of Knights. At another time he contributed five 
thousand dollars toward the wedding dowry of the daugh- 


ter of Quintilian, and he helped Athenodorus, the philoso- 
pher, to satisfy his pressing creditors. 

Pliny's kindness is revealed particularly in his treatment 
of his slaves. All Romans were not hard taskmasters. Stoic 
philosophy, which had assumed the position of a religion 
for the thinking men of the time, strongly emphasized the 
doctrine of the brotherhood of man, and Pliny's solicitude 
for the welfare of his dependents argues well for the spirit 
of humanity abroad in that age. He remarks: 

The sickness which has lately run through my family and 
carried off several of my domestics, some of them, too, in the 
prime of their years, has deeply afflicted me. I have two conso- 
lations, however, which, though they are not equal to so con- 
siderable a grief, still are consolations. One is that as I have 
always very readily manumitted my slaves their death does not 
seem altogether untimely, if they live long enough to receive 
their freedom; the other that I have allowed them to make 
a will, which I observe as religiously as if they were legally 
entitled to that privilege. I receive and obey their last requests 
as so many authoritative commands, suffering them to dispose 
of their effects to whom they please — with this single restric- 
tion, that they leave them to members of the same household, 
which, to persons of their station, is to be esteemed a sort of 
commonwealth. But though I endeavor to acquiesce under 
these inflictions, yet the same tenderness which led me to 
show them these indulgences still breaks out and overpowers 
my strongest resolutions. However, I could not wish to be 
insensible to these soft impressions of humanity; though the 
generality of the world, I know, look upon losses of this kind 
in no other view than as diminution of their property and 
fancies that by cherishing such an unfeeling temper they dis- 


cover a superior fortitude and good sense. Their wisdom and 
self-control I shall not dispute. But manly, I am sure, they arc 
not; for it is the very criterion of manhood to feel those im- 
pressions of sorrov^ which it endeavors to resist; and to admit, 
not to be above, the need of consolation. Farewell. 

Elsewhere he remarks that his slaves have grown somewhat 
careless and adds that a long course of mild treatment is 
apt to weaken the impression of awe in servants. 

Pliny had been appointed one of the heirs of a Roman 
lady and by virtue of this, according to Roman law, one of 
the executors of the estate. It appeared that in her will she 
had written, among her bequests, these words: "To Modes- 
tus, whom I have ordered to be freed, I bequeath, etc." 
Now the lady had evidently neglected to make the slave 
free, and hence, according to Roman law, he could not 
receive the legacy. Pliny decided that the slave should be 
freed and writes to his fellow executor: 
I am persuaded you will join me in these sentiments, since 
you so scrupulously regard the will of the dead, which, indeed, 
where it can be discovered, will always be law to an honorable 
mind. Honor is, to you and me, as strong an obligation as 
necessity, to others. Let Modestus, therefore, enjoy his freedom 
and his legacy in as full a manner as if the lady had observed 
all the requisite forms, as indeed they effectually do who 
choose their heirs with discretion. 

Pliny's solicitude for the health of his freedman, Zosimus, 
is strikingly expressed in the following letter, which will 
serve to conclude the remarks upon his attitude toward his 

As I know the humanity with which you treat your own 
servants, I do not scruple to confess to you the indulgence I 



show to mine. I have ever in my mind Homer*s character of 
Ulysses, "who loved his people with a father's love." And the 
very expression in our language for the head of a family, pater 
familias, suggests the rule of one's conduct toward it. But were 
I naturally of a rough and hardened cast of temper, the ill state 
of health of my freedman Zosimus (who has the stronger claim 
to humane treatment at my hands, as he now stands much in 
need of it) would be sufficient to soften me. He is a person 
of great worth, diligent in his services and well skilled in litera- 
ture; but his chief talent and, indeed, his profession, is that of 
a comedian, wherein he highly excells. He speaks with great 
emphasis, judgment, propriety, and grace; he has a very good 
hand, too, upon the lyre, which he understands better than is 
necessary for one of his profession. To this I must add, he 
reads history, oratory, and poetry as well as if he had singly 
applied himself to that art. I am thus particular in enumerat- 
ing his qualifications that you may see how many agreeable 
services I receive from him. He is endeared to me by ties of 
strong affection, which seem to be heightened by the danger 
he is now in; for nature has so formed our hearts that nothing 
contributes more to raise and inflame our inclinations for any 
enjoyment than the apprehension of being deprived of it, £ 
sentiment which Zosimus has given me occasion to experience 
more than once. Some years ago he strained himself by too 
vehement an exertion of his voice and suffered a slight hemor- 
rhage, upon which account I sent him into Egypt; whence, 
after a long absence he lately returned, greatly benefited in 
health. But again through overexertion he was reminded of 
his former malady by a return of his cough, accompanied by 
hemorrhage. For this reason I intend to send him to your 
farm at Forum Julii, which I have frequendy heard you men- 



tion as having exceedingly fine air, and I remember your rec- 
ommending the milk of that place as very good for disorders 
of this nature. I beg you to give directions to your people to 
receive him into your house and to supply him with what he 
shall have occasion for, which will not be much, for he is so 
temperate as not only to abstain from delicacies but even to deny 
himself the necessaries his ill state of health requires. I shall 
furnish toward his journey what will be sufficient for one of 
his abstemious turn who is coming under your roof. Farewell. 

Something of the character of a civilization is surely indi- 
cated by its attitude toward and its treatment of women. 
Seneca, the greatest moral teacher of this time, believed in 
the equal capacity of women for culture, even in the field 
of philosophy. The Roman matron always held an honor- 
able and respected position in the eyes of the state and at 
this time the woman of property had complete economic 
independence, since her dower could be kept intact for her 
own use. Divorce was secured with the greatest ease, and 
the mere wish of the parties concerned secured freedom 
from the matrimonial bond. That such freedom was abused 
cannot be denied, but to offset Juvenal's awful picture of 
wicked women we have examples of admirable female 
character to draw from in the pages of Pliny. 

His letters to his wife, Calpurnia, are full of expressions 
of pure devotion and tenderness and are composed in the 
most perfect taste. Writing to the aunt of Calpurnia, he 
thanks her for the interest she had taken in bringing up 
and in forming the character of the orphaned girl who 
afterward became his wife. She had developed into a 



woman of great mental keenness and a careful household 
manager. Her devotion to literature had been intensified 
by the knowledge that her husband felt a keen interest in 
the subject. Concealed from the audience, she used often 
to listen to Pliny when he was reading his literary produc- 
tions. Her anxious interest in his success impelled her to 
station couriers in court when her husband had an im- 
portant case there, that she might, at the earliest oppor- 
tunity, be informed of the outcome. 

She was a musician and she set to music and sang Pliny's 
lyrics. His highest praise to her was that she loved not his 
years, which were transitory, nor his bodily frame, which 
would wither, but his character, which was eternal. His 
solicitude when she was in ill health and was obliged to 
leave Rome while he was detained there, was extreme. He 
was restless and ill at ease; her image rose before him by 
night, and at the wonted hour by day his feet carried him 
to her vacant apartments. 

There must have been other Roman girls of as bright 
promise as the daughter of Fondanus, whose untimely 
death Pliny mourns. She was only fourteen years old, but 
she united with her girlish sweetness a matronly dignity. 
She dearly loved her father and used to receive his friends 
with affection and maidenly reserve; and to her nurses, 
tutors, and teachers she showed tender and deferential re- 
gard. She was eager, industrious, and intelligent and a 
great reader. And in her last illness, without thought of 
complaint, she obeyed the directions of her physicians and 
spoke cheerfully and comfortingly to her sister and father. 
Even when her bodily strength was exhausted, the vigor 



of her mind, unbroken by the pain of a long illness or the 
terrors of approaching death, sustained her. The pathos of 
the occurrence was enhanced by the fact that she was en- 
gaged to an excellent young man, the day of the wedding 
had been set, and Pliny and her other friends had been 
bidden to attend. 

PHny's best-known letters include the one that tells of 
the death of his uncle, Pliny the Elder, the naturalist, in the 
eruption of Vesuvius in 59 A. D., when Herculaneum and 
Pompeii were buried; a second, describing his personal ex- 
periences at the time; and an official letter to the emperor 
in reference to the treatment of Christians. 

The Roman scholar's devotion to knowledge is nowhere 
better shown than in the conduct of Pliny the Elder on the 
occasion of this great catastrophe. He was at the time 
of the eruption admiral of the Roman fleet stationed at 
Misenum. He immediately proceeded to the scene of devas- 
tation, inspired by scientific interest and humane feeling, for 
he wished not only to view the phenomenon at close range 
but also to assist the panic-stricken fugitives. He carefully 
noted and dictated to his secretary as he proceeded the 
various manifestations of the phenomenon. His death was 
due to suffocation resulting from breathing the sulphurous 
fumes from the crater. Pliny has also left us a very detailed 
account of the mode of life and intense application of this 
scholar. He generally rose at midnight and worked until 
shortly before dawn, when he would wait upon the Em- 
peror Vespasian, who also used to work by night. The day 
was divided among various duties with great care, that no 
time might be wasted. Even during the bath, or a part of 



it, he had his secretary read to him, and he often dictated 
and wrote while traveUng. It was this appHcation that per- 
mitted him to compose, even in the midst of an intensely 
active public life, his many works, all of which have per- 
ished except his monumental work on natural history. 
Pliny the nephew was about eighteen years of age when his 
uncle died; in fact, he was with his uncle at Misenum, but 
had stayed behind with his mother. He leaves a vivid de- 
scription of the horrors that attended the earthquake. 

The other letter mentioned, that relating to the Chris- 
tians, belongs to the end of Pliny's career. He had been 
made governor general of the eastern province of Bithynia 
and as such was the emperor's representative. His chief 
task was to straighten out the financial difficulties in which 
the province had become entangled. The collection of offi- 
cial letters that passed between Pliny and Trajan on matters 
pertaining to the government of the province constitutes 
one of the most valuable and illuminating historical docu- 
ments left us from the ancient world. The activities therein 
indicated may be taken as illustrative of the activities of the 
innumerable Roman officials spread over the world. Their 
tasks were for the most part performed in silence and their 
lives passed in strict attention to duty; only the stones of 
mined cities are mute witnesses to the fidelity and effective- 
ness of their work. 

Besides the ordinary legal investigations and questions, 
problems of every sort met the governor. The way in 
which Pliny coped with them, even if it does not indicate 
administrative talents of the highest type, at least leaves us 
with a feeling of admiration for the sound judgment, mod- 



eration, and justice of the Roman official. Immediately 
upon his arrival in the province he wrote the emperor that 
it would be well to send out experienced engineers to take 
accurate measurements of public works. He had been look- 
ing into the accounts of the town of Prusa and felt con- 
vinced that if such measurements were taken the state could 
recover considerable sums from contractors. He also found 
the public bath in a dilapidated condition. The people, 
through Pliny, asked permission to restore it, and Pliny 
vouched that money would be forthcoming, as he was re- 
covering certain sums due the state from private indi- 

Pliny evidently emphasized the necessity of having 
skilled architects and engineers available to prevent faulty 
construction and to avoid consequent loss to cities. He cites 
the instance of Nicomedia, which spent a hundred and 
fifty thousand dollars on an aqueduct that had ultimately 
to be abandoned. On a second unsuccessful enterprise ten 
thousand dollars more were squandered. Pliny himself 
went to the spot, examined the ground, located a suitable 
source, and told how the water could be brought down. 
"But," he writes the emperor, "it is necessary that you 
should send an inspector of aqueducts or an architect to 
prevent a third fiasco." The same idea is emphasized in 
connection with works in the city of Nicaea. A theater, 
nearly completed at a cost of about five hundred thousand 
dollars, showed in its walls cracks, due either to faulty 
material or to weak foundations. Pliny thought that the 
buttresses and substructure were expensive but worthless, 
and the question he had to decide was whether or not to 



abandon the work. Basilicas and colonnades for the build- 
ing had been promised by private individuals, but at the 
time everything was at a standstill. A gymnasium was also 
in course of construction in the city but the plans were bad, 
and an architect whom Pliny privately consulted stated that 
though the walls were twenty-two feet thick they were too 
weak to support the structure, being made of concrete 
without the proper facing of brick. All this lent force to 
Pliny's plea that an architect be sent from Rome to decide 
what had best be done. 

Pliny's interest in the financial welfare of his cities is 
further seen in his desire to invest the public funds as 
advantageously as possible. He states that there are few 
opportunities of investing public funds in lands and that 
borrowers at the usual rate of interest, 12 per cent, do not 
offer themselves. He suggests lowering the rate of interest 
and thus attracting investors. Another plan is rather unique 
but is suggestive of the feeling of obligation to the state, 
namely, that of forcing the members of the senates of the 
various towns to borrow the surplus funds. Trajan agreed 
to the first proposition, but, with his usual good sense, 
stated that to compel men to borrow money against their 
will, when perhaps they have no means of employing it, 
"is inconsistent with the justice of the age in which we 
live." It may be remarked in passing that in the second 
century this very scheme of which Trajan disapproved was 
put into practice. 

In looking into the accounts of the Byzantines, Pliny 
found an item of six hundred dollars for the payment of 


an ambassador who was sent yearly to salute the emperor. 
Pliny sent the salutation without the ambassador, to di- 
minish the expense, as he remarks, without omitting the 
compliment. He found another item of a hundred and fifty 
dollars for the traveling expenses of an ambassador sent 
each year to salute the governor of Moesia. This, too, was 
stricken from the budget. 

Engineering problems of considerable magnitude were 
investigated. The emperor had expressed the fear that a 
certain lake in the vicinity of Nicaea might be drained dry 
should Pliny construct a canal that had been projected to 
join the lake with a navigable river flowing into the sea. 
After a careful consideration of the problem, Pliny stated 
that he felt sure that by damming up another river flowing 
from the lake the volume of water could be maintained. 
Another plan he suggested was to make the proposed canal 
narrower and to connect it directly with the sea, in which 
case the flow of the tide would prevent the draining of the 
lake. To be perfectly sure of the matter he again called for 
a surveyor from Rome, for he seems to have had great faith 
in the engineers from the metropolis. Trajan on one occa- 
sion suggested to him that there must be capable men in 
the provinces and stated that he could ill spare any from 
the city. 

Other problems of administration were constantly com- 
ing up. When Nicomedia was visited by a destructive 
conflagration, it was found upon investigation that the city 
possessed no fire pumps or other appliances for fighting 
fire. Pliny ordered that the necessary apparatus be secured 



and wrote asking permission of the emperor to have a com- 
pany of one hundred and fifty firemen formed. The em- 
peror did not approve of this and w^rote in reply: 
We must remember that your province has been especially dis- 
turbed by factions arising from just such combinations. What- 
ever name they bear, it is almost inevitable that men so united 
will become a political club. It will be better, therefore, to sup- 
ply the necessary apparatus and in case of fire to warn land- 
lords to take precautions for themselves, making use, if neces- 
sary, of the populace in extinguishing fires. 

It was for the same reason that, when Pliny asked 
whether he should frown upon the practice of distributing 
gifts to large numbers on the occasion of weddings and 
other ceremonies, the emperor wrote: 

You are right in fearing lest the custom of general invitations 
should lead to corrupt practices if the guests are invited to these 
festivities collectively rather than individually. But I have ap- 
pointed you for the express purpose of influencing the manners 
and customs of the province, and you must take such measures 
as are necessary to its lasting tranquillity. 

These notes of the emperor throw interesting side lights 
upon the attitude of the government toward the trade 
unions, so many of which had sprung up in the Roman 
Empire at this period. It was under the general edict for- 
bidding the formation of guilds except by imperial sanc- 
tion that Pliny forbade the gatherings of Christians in his 

Pliny's vigilant eye was everywhere watchful for the pub- 
lic welfare and he was constantly guarding against abuses. 



The Romans maintained a magnificent system of public 
roads and on these roads imperial post relays for the trans- 
mission of public dispatches and the convenience of offi- 
cials. Their use was always authorized by written imperial 
orders. Pliny asks the emperor whether he shall recognize 
orders the dates of which have expired and if so, for how 
long after the expiration. The emperor's reply is terse: 
"Passports the dates of which have expired ought not to 
be used and so I make it a strict rule always to send out 
new ones before they can possibly be requested." 

An endeavor has been made to draw in brief outline that 
phase of Roman society fundamentally pure, cultured, and 
inspired by high ideals of duty and public service. We 
acknowledge that the influence of the existing type of court 
life must have been demoralizing and that the influence of 
a Vespasian, a Trajan, a Hadrian, a Marcus Aurelius must 
have been elevating; but there persisted a strong, conserva- 
tive Roman element, which made a vigorous stand against 
the vices of the time. This strain, permeating all parts of 
Roman society, is reflected in the pages of Pliny. 

It was this background that made the stand against disin- 
tegrating influences as eiJective as it was. No period in 
history is so fraught with meaning for the American repub- 
lic as the last century of the Roman republic and the first 
century of the empire. The disciples of Stoicism, the purest 
and strongest moral force of the Roman world, waged 
unrelenting war against the corrupting influences of the 
age — a fight that made it possible for the Western Empire 
to live for another four hundred years. It was the ultimate 



prevalence of a thoroughly materialized civiUzation that 
brought the end. 

We may express the hope that the moral forces of the 
present age, fighting against exactly the same peril, may 
prove more successful; but a more vaUant and stubborn 
fight than that made by the Roman w^orthies we can 
scarcely expect to see. 

^68 y 


THE man whom history knows as Seneca the Philoso- 
pher is more appropriately termed by Dante Seneca 
Morale, for in the words of a brilliant but very sound his- 
torian of Latin literature, " as a practical exponent of morals 
he stands with Plutarch at the head of all Greek and 
Roman writers." "Practical" is a fitting word, for few 
writers have known the human heart so well and few have 
been able by precept to fortify it more strongly against the 
assaults of fortune than he. 

No less striking was the position he held as a man of 
letters in his own day. Finally, strange to say, in a line of 
work so little recognized by his contemporaries that Quin- 
tilian, the great Roman critic, in enumerating his works 
omits mention of the tragedies, he exercised an influence 
upon the dramatists of the Renaissance that can scarcely 
be exaggerated. 

He belonged to a learned and distinguished family. Both 
his father, Seneca the Rhetorician or Orator, and his 
mother, Helvia, were Spaniards, natives of Corduba (the 
modern Cprdova), where he himself was born. The moth- 
er's family was one of position, through whose influence 
his advance in public life was doubtless facilitated. The 
year of his birth was approximately that of Jesus of Naza- 
reth. When he was two years old his father took him to 


Rome. The baby was in charge of his mother's sister, who 
was afterward for sixteen years the first lady of Egypt, 
being the wife of its prefect. Seneca was educated in Rome 
and spent practically his whole life there. 

The family continued to reside in Spain. The father was 
a man of marvelous memory and could, he himself tells us, 
repeat as many as two thousand words that he had heard 
once pronounced. This makes the book of literary, or per- 
haps we should say professional, reminiscences that he 
wrote at an advanced age at the request of his sons very in- 
teresting and valuable. The only portions left are ten books 
of controversiae and one of suasoriae. These terms contro- 
versiae and suasoriae demand a passing notice, as they are 
the names of the two forms of rhetorical exercises by which 
the youth of that time were trained, and the kind of style 
they tended to produce will help us to understand the strik- 
ing style of Seneca himself and the influence he exercised by 
virtue of it. This type of training will largely explain also 
the declamatory character of the tragedies that go by the 
name "Senecan." 

In the days of the republic the chief aim in education was 
the production of the effective orator — particularly the 
legal orator. Such rhetorical training as there was, was 
based upon cases {causae), modeled as closely as possible 
upon the real cases pleaded in the courts. Tacitus, in his 
"Dialogue on Oratory," correctly attributed the decline of 
eloquence at Rome to the loss of political freedom. In har- 
mony with this idea the type of education was changed. 
The causae or cases were replaced by the controversiae and 
the suasoriae. 

i 70 y 


The controversia was an exercise in argumentation, some- 
times for, sometimes against, a claim made in an imaginary 
dispute. To stimulate ingenuity the pupil might argue first 
for and then against the claim. A typical subject is this: 
A valuable slave has been disguised and passed off as a free 
man by his owner to avoid import duty at Brindisi. Hav- 
ing been formally declared free before witnesses, is he enti- 
tled to claim the freedom? Many of the cases cited by 
Seneca are rather far-fetched and involve situations in 
which tyrants, pirates, unnatural fathers, and cruel step- 
mothers play the chief role. Their romantic character may 
be inferred from the fact that many of them are employed 
in that collection of novels and stories so popular in the 
Middle Ages, the Gesta Romanorum, As the themes were 
hackneyed, the important thing was not so much what was 
said as how it was said. 

The suasoria usually took the form of a declamation 
embodying a piece of advice given by the pupil to some 
historical character. For example: Shall Cicero burn his 
Philippics and plead with Antony for his life? Shall Leoni- 
das withdraw from Thermopylae? Historical knowledge, 
dramatic imagination, psychological insight, and above all 
style, were required. 

In this connection may be mentioned a social phenome- 
non of the age that contributed to the artificiality of style. 
It was the custom of authors to give readings or recitations 
of their productions to invited friends — presumably to 
elicit criticism but in reality to impress the audience with 
the brilliancy of the performer. 

To return to the family of Seneca. His brother, Annaeus 



Mela, was the father of Lucan, author of the epic Pharsalia, 
An elder brother, Novatus, is known to history as Gallio — 
the Gallio who was governor of Achaeia and who is men- 
tioned in the Acts of the Apostles and the Gallio who gives 
the title to an episode in The White Stone of Anatole 
France, that marvelous re-creation of classical philosophy 
and life! Spain contributed these sons of hers to Rome 
and not only these but, it will be remembered. Martial, 
Columella, and Quintilian as well. 

The young Seneca devoted himself to the study of rheto- 
ric and became a distinguished pleader at the bar. His 
brilliancy excited the jealousy of the mad tyrant Caligula, 
and on the advice of his father he devoted himself to the 
study of philosophy — first to the Stoic system and after- 
ward to that of the Pythagoreans. In accordance with the 
teachings of the latter he became for a time a vegetarian. 
The father warned his son that the peculiar views of this 
school might lay him open to the charge of being a Jew 
(by which he meant a Christian), and Seneca remarks that 
his father had little difficulty in persuading him to dine 
better. At Caligula's death Seneca resumed his career at 
the bar. 

The brilliant young lawyer was well known at the court 
of Claudius. Dissension arose between the dissolute and 
cruel Empress Messalina and Julia, the beautiful and ambi- 
tious niece of the emperor. Seneca seems to have sided with 
Julia, who was subsequently banished. The charge of adul- 
tery with Julia was brought against Seneca, and by decree 
of the senate he was banished to the barren island of 
Corsica, where he lived for eight years. Here he devoted 


himself to the study of philosophy — to Stoicism, the school 
to which he had first been attracted and to which he was 
most indebted. Here he worked out that mild form of 
Stoicism of general application that, in the words of one 
critic, "has made its teaching, with all its imperfection, the 
purest and noblest of antiquity." 

After Messalina's death, Claudius' fourth wife (mother 
of Nero by a former husband) secured the recall of Seneca, 
who became tutor to the young Nero, now eleven years 
old and destined to be the successor of Claudius. Mother, 
son, and tutor seemed to work in harmony, and Seneca's 
task was apparently well performed at this period. As yet 
he did not have to face those dilemmas that inevitably con- 
front a statesman who is also a philosopher. 

Nero became emperor at the age of seventeen and the 
government of the Roman world was to all intents intrusted 
to Seneca and to Burrus, commander of the Praetorian 
Guard — a blunt soldier but a man of sterling character. 
It is well known that the just and moderate rule of Nero 
during the first five years of his reign is attributed by his- 
torians to the wise direction of the two mentors. 

Seneca held high office culminating in the consulship. 
His imperial master showered gifts upon him, and during 
the first four years of Nero's rule he accumulated a fortune 
of fifteen million dollars — a staggering amount for those 
days. Seneca ruled the destinies of the empire for ten years, 
the last five of which severely taxed his patience, his tact, 
and his virtue. 

Nero decided to free himself from the control of the im- 
perious queen mother who had secured the succession for 


him. Seneca could not mediate; he cast his lot with Nero. 
Whether he was really cognizant of the plot to murder the 
empress we do not know, but we do know that he com- 
posed the letter that Nero sent to the senate justifying the 

All the world knows of the wild career of Nero after 
this crime. Historians tell us that the empire with its prov- 
inces was well governed despite the corruption at court. 
To what extent this was due to the influence of Seneca 
and Burrus at this time is a matter of conjecture. Burrus, 
commander of the Praetorian Guard and second in power 
and influence to the emperor himself, died in 63 A. D. De- 
prived of his support, Seneca's position became perilous, as 
it was only too evident that Nero wished to rid himself of 
this remaining restraint. Seneca asked permission to give 
up his fortune and retire, but formal retirement was refused. 
During the last three years of his life he lived practically in 
retirement, however, devoting himself to philosophic con- 
templation and writing. Nero attempted to have him 
poisoned, a plot frustrated because of the abstemiousness 
and caution of Seneca. 

The widespread Pisonian conspiracy, whose purpose was 
the assassination of Nero and the transfer of the empire to 
Calpurnius Piso, the head of an illustrious Roman family, 
was the pretext that the emperor seized. Many were in- 
volved and Seneca, among others, was directed by imperial 
order to end his life. The manner in which he met death 
may be narrated in the restrained but striking words of 
Tacitus: ^ 

^Ramsay's rendering is followed. 



Then came the death of Annaeus Seneca, which gave great joy 
to Nero: not that he had any clear evidence of his guilt, but 
because he could now do by the sword what he had failed to 
do by poison. The sole witness against him was Natalis, and 
his evidence only came to this, that he had been sent to see 
Seneca when ill and to complain of his refusing to see 
Piso. "It would be better," he had said, "for such old friends 
to keep up their habits of intercourse." To this Seneca had re- 
plied that frequent meetings and conversations would do 
neither of them any good: but that his own welfare depended 
on Piso's safety. 

Gavius Silvanus, tribune of the Praetorian Cohort, was or- 
dered to take the report of this incident to Seneca and to ask 
him whether he admitted the correctness of the question of 
Natalis and of his own answer to it. Either by chance or pur- 
posely, it happened that Seneca was returning on that day from 
Campania and had halted at a suburban villa four miles from 
Rome. Thither, toward evening, the tribune proceeded; and 
having surrounded the house with soldiers, he delivered the 
emperor's message to Seneca when he was at table with his 
wife, Pompeia Paulina, and two friends. 

Seneca's reply was that Natalis had been sent to complain on 
behalf of Piso that he was not permitted to visit him; and he 
had tendered in excuse the state of his health and his love of 
quiet. As to his reason for regarding the welfare of a private 
individual as of more value than his own safety, he had had 
none. He was not a man addicted to flattery: and that no one 
knew better than Nero himself, who had more often found him 
too free than too servile in his utterances. On receiving this re- 
port from the tribune in the presence of Poppaea and Tigelli- 
nus, who formed the emperor's inner council of cruelty, Nero 
asked whether Seneca was preparing to put an end to himself. 



The tribune declared that he had observed no sign of alarm or 
dejection in Seneca's face or language. He was therefore or- 
dered to go back and tell him he must die. 

Fabius Rusticus states that the tribune did not return by the 
same road by which he had come, but that he went out of his 
way to see Faenius, the prefect; and having shown him Caesar's 
order, asked him whether he should obey it; and that Faenius, 
with that fatal weakness which had come over them all, told 
him to execute his orders. For Silvanus himself was one of the 
conspirators, and he was now adding one more crime to those 
which he had conspired to avenge. But he spared his own 
eyes and tongue, sending in one of the centurions to announce 
to Seneca that his last hour was come. 

Seneca, undismayed, asked for his will; but this the centurion 
refused. Then, turning to his friends, he called them to wit- 
ness that, being forbidden to requite them for their services, he 
was leaving to them the sole, and yet the noblest, possession 
that remained to him — the pattern of his life. If they bore 
that in mind, they would win for themselves a name for vir- 
tue as the reward of their devoted friendship. At one moment 
he would check their tears with conversation; at another he 
would brace up their courage by high-strung language of re- 
buke, asking where was now their philosophy? Where was 
that attitude towards the future which they had rehearsed for 
so many years? To whom was Nero's cruelty unknown? What 
was left for one who had murdered his mother and his brother 
but to slay his guardian and teacher also? 

Having discoursed thus as if to the whole company, he em- 
braced his wife, and abating somewhat of his tone of high 
courage, he implored her to moderate her grief and not cling 
to it for ever: Let the contemplation of her husband's life of 
virtue afford her noble solace in her bereavement. 



She, however, announced her resolve to die with him and 
called on the operator to do his part. Seneca would not thwart 
her noble ambition; and he loved her too dearly to expose her 
to insult after he was gone. "I have pointed out to thee," he 
said, "how thou mayest soothe thy life; but if thou prefer a 
noble death, I will not begrudge thee the example. Let us both 
share the fortitude of thus nobly dying: but thine shall be the 
nobler end." 

A single incision of the knife opened the arm of each, but as 
Seneca's aged body, reduced by spare living, would scarcely let 
the blood escape, he opened the veins of his knees and ankles 
also. Worn out at last by the pain and fearing to break down 
his wife's courage by his suffering or to lose his own self- 
command at the sight of hers, he begged her to move into an- 
other chamber. But even in his last moments his eloquence 
did not fall; he called his secretaries to his side and dictated to 
them many things which being published in his own words 
I deem it needless to reproduce. 

Nero, however, had no personal dislike to Paulina; and, not 
wishing to add to his character for cruelty, he ordered her 
death to be stayed. So, at the bidding of the soldiers, the slaves 
and freedmen tied up her arms and stopped the flow of blood; 
perhaps she was unconscious. But with that alacrity to accept 
the worst version of a thing which marks the vulgar, some 
believed that so long as she thought Nero would be implacable 
she clutched at the glory of sharing her husband's death, but 
that when the hope of a reprieve presented itself the attractions 
of life proved too strong for her. She lived on for a few years 
more, worthily cherishing her husband's memory; but the pal- 
lor of her face and limbs showed how much vitality had gone 
p^t of her. 

Meanwhile Seneca, in the agonies of a slow and lingering 



death, implored Statius Annaeus, his tried and trusted friend 
and physician, to produce a poison with which he had long 
provided himself, being the same as that used for public execu- 
tions at Athens. The draught was brought and administered, 
but to no purpose; the limbs were too cold, the body too numb, 
to let the poison act. At last, he was put into a warm bath; 
and as he sprinkled the slaves about him he added, "This liba- 
tion is to Jupiter the Liberator!" He was then carried into the 
hot vapour bath, and perished of suffocation. His body was 
burnt without any funeral ceremony, in accordance with in- 
structions about his end which he had inserted in his will in 
the heyday of his wealth and power. 

Seneca's many extant works are chiefly philosophic. 
These consist of: (1) a series of essays whose titles suffi- 
ciently indicate their character: "On Anger," "Clemency," 
"Benefits," "Calmness of Mind," "A Happy Life," "The 
Shortness of Life," "Providence," and so forth; (2) letters 
of condolence, called Consolationes, of which the finest 
is that addressed to his mother, Helvia, from his place of 
exile in Corsica; (3) a collection of one hundred and 
twenty-four letters addressed to Lucilius — generally ac- 
knowledged to be the finest of all his works — which are 
not ordinary letters on current affairs like those of Cicero 
but moral discussions and reflections covering a wide range 
of subjects. 

Ancient philosophy is divided into the three branches — 
ethics, physics, and logic. Seneca cared little for dialectic 
or logic. He criticized the current philosophy for teaching 
disciples how to dispute rather than how to live, and the 
pupils themselves with being more interested in sharpening 
their wits than in improving their characters. 


Science in Seneca's day was a branch of philosophy be- 
longing to the division of physics. Seneca was interested 
in physics mainly for its bearing upon ethics, as had been 
the case also with Lucretius; physics was naturally con- 
nected with theology and consequently had a direct bearing 
on man's destiny and fate, and this was what gave it inter- 
est for Seneca. His studies in this line are incorporated in 
the work entitled Naturales Quaestiones, which may be 
translated Physical Science. Seneca's work treats chiefly of 
astronomy and meteorology and of physical geography, and 
it became a textbook in those branches during the Middle 
Ages. Those who are curious in regard to this part of 
Seneca's work may consult a book entitled Physical Science 
in the Time of Nero, which consists of a translation of the 
Naturales Quaestiones by Clarke, a classical scholar, with 
notes on the treatise by Sir Archibald Geikie, the distin- 
guished British geologist. 

If we begin the study of Seneca with the idea that we are 
to find in him a systematic exposition of Stoic doctrine, we 
shall be disappointed. He is interested in the formation of 
character and in man's relation to deity. He teaches mainly, 
but not exclusively, by applying Stoic doctrines to man's 
actual needs in daily life in so far as this is possible. These 
teachings are just as vital, just as interesting, just as helpful 
today as they were on the day they were written, for human 
nature remains much the same in every age. As previously 
stated these teachings in their most helpful and appealing 
form are embodied in the episdes to Lucilius. 

At the beginning of the first epistle Seneca writes: Vin- 
dica te tibi, usually translated, "Set yourself free for your 


own sake." This is perhaps sufficiently exact, but vindicare 
is a term in law meaning "to claim freedom." "Make 
yourself master of your own destiny" is the exact sense in 
this context. One's body and fortune may be subject to 
another but one's soul can be his own even in slavery. 
These words may be taken as the general text on which 
Seneca preaches in the epistles. 

The one thing that man possesses is himself. There is 
but one freedom, that of being a slave to no want. Accord- 
ing to Stoic teaching there are things good, things bad, and 
things indifferent; that is, neither good nor bad in them- 
selves, but only so through the opinion held in regard to 
them. Among things indifferent Seneca counts the human 
body. He teaches that we are miserable because we think 
we are. Freedom cannot be taken from us if we are not 
afraid to surrender our external possessions, and among 
these external possessions we must count the body, which 
is only the soil in which the soul is planted. The soul grows 
and blossoms or withers and decays according to the nature 
of this soil and the degree of cultivation it receives. 

As we have seen, to Seneca philosophy means the study 
of the phenomena of the universe, and of the nature of 
man, each with its divine element that he calls God. All 
nature is -one; not only the physical world, which is self- 
evident, but the spiritual world as well. Man must recog- 
nize this universal kinship and love his brother as himself. 

Follow nature and you can do no wrong w^as another 
Stoic doctrine. Seneca taught that the unique quality that 
places man in a class by himself is the possession of reason, 
which is itself a portion of divinity implanted in man. To 


follow reason is consequently to act in accordance with 
nature and to act in accordance with nature is the key to 
human happiness. 

Actions, Uke things, are per se neither good nor bad. 
The same action may be base or virtuous according to the 
mental attitude of the doer. Hence actions must be judged, 
not with regard to the general view that is held of them, 
but with regard to what they really are. Wisdom is con- 
sistency of judgment, for it is not possible that anything 
other than that which is right can always please us. 

Seneca's philosophical writings display breadth of view 
and abundant knowledge, and they are not pedantic. The 
nobleness of their thought and their warmth of feeling at- 
tract the reader. They must be read in small allotments, 
however, as the brilliancy of the style, the repetition of 
mannerisms, and the constant effort to please will fatigue 
the reader. 

Much of the ethical teaching of Stoicism, with its harsh- 
ness toned down by Seneca, bears a rather striking simi- 
larity to that of Christianity. The ways in which he speaks 
of deity, for instance, will illustrate this: "The great soul 
is that which yields itself up to God." "All that pleases 
Him [i.e., God] is good." "He is a friend never far off." 
"He is our father." "It is from Him that great and good 
resolutions come." "Prayer is a witness to His care for us." 

On the authority of Jerome, who based his judgment 
upon a body of letters supposed to have passed between 
St. Paul and Seneca, the Church believed that Seneca was 
one of the early saints, that much of his teaching was de- 
rived from the Gospels, and that he had held communica- 



tion with St. Paul. Fourteen of these letters are extant. 
Judging from internal evidence, practically all authorities 
agree that they are forgeries. The motive for the forgery 
w^as, of course, to bring out the similarity of the teaching 
mentioned above. Whether it is likely that Seneca ever met 
St. Paul, as his brother Gallio actually did, is an interesting 
question but apart from our purpose here. 

The place of Seneca in Roman literature as a stylist is 
indeed unique. An historian of Roman literature has perti- 
nently remarked that he "set the style in which each suc- 
ceeding author either wrote or tried to write or tried not 
to write." Cicero, with his dignified, well-balanced, and 
sonorous periods, had been the acknowledged pattern for 
prose style until the appearance of Seneca, who superseded 
him. This means that the periodic structure was replaced 
by what has been well termed the pointed style, which was 
a natural result of the rhetorical training and literary tend- 
ency of the time, to which we have previously referred. 
It may be added that the vogue of the Augustan poets in 
the scheme of education had also affected prose style to 
a marked degree. This influence, first noticeable in Livy's 
writings, is strikingly exemplified in the works of Tacitus. 
The culmination of all these tendencies produced the strik- 
ing pointed style of Seneca. The style is characterized by 
a tendency constantly to employ epigram, antithesis, para- 
dox, and allusion. What had been sparingly employed as 
a condiment in the more chaste classical style now became 
the piece de resistance. 

Summers, a classical scholar and editor of Seneca, felici- 
tously describes the pointed style as 


a kind of writing which, without sacrificing clearness or con- 
ciseness, regularly avoids in thought or phrase or both, all 
that is obvious, direct, or natural; seeking to be ingenious 
rather than true, neat rather than beautiful; exercising the 
wit but not rousing the emotions or appealing to the judgment 
of the reader. It is a style which, in modern literature, has 
been admired in France rather than in Germany or in our 
country [England], although in Pope we have an acknowl- 
edged master of it. 

This style, so well characterized by Summers, was the pre- 
dominant one during the Silver Age of Latin literature, 
although Quintilian, the Roman critic, strove manfully to 
stem the tide of its popularity, because he believed its tend- 
ency to be thoroughly vicious. Quintilian's remarks on 
Seneca are worth quoting in full: 

I have deliberately postponed the discussion of Seneca in con- 
nection with the various departments of literature because there 
is a general, though false, impression that I condemn and even 
detest him. It is true that I had occasion to pass censure upon 
him when I was endeavouring to recall students from a de- 
praved style, weakened by every kind of error, to a severer 
standard of taste. But at that time Seneca's works were in 
the hands of every young man, and my aim was not to ban his 
reading altogether, but to prevent his being preferred to authors 
stiperior to himself, but whom he was never tired of dispar- 
aging; for, being conscious of the fact that his own style was 
very different from theirs, he was afraid that he would fail to 
please those who admired them. But the young men loved him 
rather than imitated him and fell as far below him as he fell 
below the ancients. For I only wish they had equalled or at 
least approached his level. But he pleased them for his faults 

-I 83 V 


alone, and each individual sought to imitate such of those 
faults as lay within his capacity to reproduce and then brought 
reproach on his master by boasting that he spoke in the genuine 
Senecan manner. Seneca had many excellent qualities, a quick 
and fertile intelligence with great industry and wide knowl- 
edge, though as regards the last quality he was often led into 
error by those whom he had entrusted with the task of inves- 
tigating certain subjects on his behalf. He dealt with almost 
every department of knowledge, for speeches, poems, letters, 
and dialogues all circulate under his name. In philosophy he 
showed a lack 0|f critical power, but he was none the less quite 
admirable in hjs denunciations of vice. His works contain a 
number of striking general reflections and much that is worth 
reading for edification; but his style is for the most part cor- 
rupt and exceedingly dangerous, for the very reason that its 
vices are so many and so attractive. One could wish that, while 
he relied on his own intelligence, he had allowed himself to 
be guided by the taste of others. For if he had only despised 
all unnatural expressions and had not been so passionately 
fond of all that was incorrect, if he had not felt such affection 
for all that was his own and had not impaired the solidity of 
his matter by striving after epigrammatic brevity, he would 
have won the approval of the learned instead of the enthusiasm 
of boys. But, even as it is, he deserves to be read by those 
whose powers have been formed and firmly molded on the 
standards of a severer taste, if only because he will exercise 
their critical faculties in distinguishing between his merits and 
his defects. For, as I have said, there is much in him that we 
may approve, much even that we may admire. Only we must 
be careful in our selection: would that he had been as careful 
himself. For his genius deserved to be devoted to better aims, 
since what it does actually aim at, it succeeds in achieving. 



Typical Senecan brilliancy, which sparkles on every page, 
may be illustrated by the following citations taken mainly 
from the epistles and quoted from Summers' The Silver 
Age of Latin Literature: 

A man who has taken your time recognizes no debt: yet it is 
the one he can never repay (Ep. 1, 3). 

You cannot read all the books you have: have then only as 

many as you can read (Ep. 2, 3). 

Rules make the learner's path long, examples make it short and 

successful (Ep. 6, 5). 

Man at his birth is content with a litde milk and a piece of 

flannel: so we begin, that presently find kingdoms not enough 

for us (Ep. 20, 13). 

A lesson that is never learnt can never be too often taught 

(Ep. 27, 9). 

They that mistake life's accessories for life itself are like them 

that go too fast in a maze: their very haste confuses them 

(Ep. 60, 3). 

'Tis not the belly's hunger that costs so much, but its pride 

(Ep. 60, 3). 

Men love their country, not because it is great, but because it 

is their own (Ep. 66, 26). 

No one finds his proficiency in a study just where he dropped 

it (Ep. 71, 35). 

Life is a play: 'tis not its length but its performance that counts 

(Ep. 77, 20). 

Retirement without the love of letters is living burial (Ep. 

82, 3). 

Wealth falls on some men as a copper down a drain (Ep. 87, 


-(85 1. 


Life should be like the precious metals, weigh much in little 

bulk (Ep. 93, 4). 

The good man is Nature's creditor, giving her back better life 

than he had of her (Ep. 93, 8). 

Nature flings us into, she flings us out of, the world: more than 

you brought with you, you may not take away (Ep. 102, 24). 

Abstinence is easier than temperance (Ep. 106, 16). 

Savageness is always due to a sense of weakness (Vit. Beat. 

3, 4). 

To forgive all is as inhuman as to forgive none (Clem. 1, 

A multitude of executions discredits a king, as a multitude of 
funerals a doctor (Clem. 1, 24, 7). 

Virtue rejects a mean admirer: you must come to her with 
open purse (Ben. IV, 24, 2). 

Of the tragedies attributed to Seneca there are eight com- 
plete plays on the well-worn themes of the Greek legends, 
fragments of two others, and a praetexta, the Octavia. Critics 
in general accept the eight plays as Seneca's, but from in- 
ternal evidence reject the Octavia as having been written 
after the death of Nero. As there are skeptics, however, 
we shall mention briefly the facts that throw some doubt 
upon the authenticity of the plays. One of them— the most 
interesting in the collection and the only example extant 
of a Roman tragedy with a Roman plot — the Octavia, is 
conceded not to be the work of the philosopher. Why may 
not its author, whoever he was, have written the others as 

It must be acknowledged that the style of this particular 
play is somewhat more natural, that it shows true feeling 



and is more subdued in tone than the rest of the collection. 
All of this, however, might well be attributed to the fact 
that a contemporary event, the heart-rending tragedy of 
the young, beautiful, and innocent wife of the heartless 
Nero, is narrated. 

Quintilian, in his enumeration of the Roman writers of 
tragedy from the earliest time to Pomponius Secundus, 
makes no mention of Seneca. In the passage already quoted 
he makes no mention of dramas in citing the forms of 
Uterature to which Seneca devoted his attention. Sidonius 
Apollonaris, a writer of the fifth century and a man well 
versed in Roman literature, distinguishes between the phi- 
losopher and the dramatist in the following passage: "You 
are not to read here the eloquent productions of the foster 
children of Cordova, one of whom revered the crabbed 
Plato and in vain admonished his pupil Nero, while the 
other imitated the work of Euripides and followed in the 
steps of Aeschylus and Thespis." (Carmen IX, 230-239.) 
Finally, it is said that Seneca's peculiarities are sometimes 
exaggerated in the dramas to a point that makes them cari- 
catures of the real Seneca. Whoever the Seneca who wrote 
the plays may be, the plays themselves exercised a tre- 
mendous influence during the Renaissance and thereafter. 

Early Roman tragedy, like comedy, was entirely de- 
pendent upon that of Greece. We have it on the authority 
of Horace that the Romans were quite happy in their adap- 
tations of Greek tragedy; that is, in plays taken bodily from 
the Greek and in plays constructed like Greek tragedies but 
upon Roman themes — technically called praetextae, or 
plays of the purple stripe. Tragedy appealed to the Roman 



character, the striking quaUty of which was gravitas, or per- 
sonal dignity. 

Cicero in his Tusculan Disputations quotes rather copi- 
ously from the early Roman writers of tragedy, especially 
Ennius. All that we know of this early Latin tragedy is 
derived from such citations, which make us wish that we 
had more. There is a dignity and sonorousness of diction 
quite worthy the tragic style. There is also a tendency to 
declamation and verbosity, and we must feel that the Sene- 
can dramas are legitimate but degenerate offspring of these 
early plays, which were naturally based for the most part 
upon the cosmopolitan and unreligious Euripides rather 
than upon the intensely national and religious Aeschylus 
and Sophocles. So, too, in Seneca. Of the eight plays with 
plots taken from Greek legend, five are adaptations from 
Euripides, one from Aeschylus, and one from Sophocles; 
one, the Troades or Trojan Women, is a contamination — 
that is, its plot is formed by the fusion of two plays of 
Euripides. In general the plots follow the Greek originals 
very closely. There is sometimes an alteration in the relative 
importance of certain scenes. Sometimes a scene is omitted 
and sometimes one is added, but rarely. The plays are some- 
what shorter than the Greek originals. The chorus is re- 
tained but is quite divorced from the plot; apart from the 
fact that it is in lyric measure, it differs Uttle from the 
declamations of the ordinary actors. The convention of 
having but three actors on the stage at once is pretty strictly 

It is hardly conceivable that these Senecan plays were 
ever intended to be put on the stage, for dramatic interest 



is entirely lacking — the speeches are too long for anything 
but recitation and there is not the slightest attempt to de- 
lineate character. The characters merely deliver speeches 
and recite descriptions. There is a lack of restraint, which 
often results in the violation of the decencies of the stage, 
as when Manto, a prophetess, investigates the entrails in 
public and when Medea kills her children in full view of 
the audience. The height of bad taste, or shall we say of 
absurdity, is attained when Thyestes hears the cry of his 
children, whom he has just eaten, sounding within him. 
As drama these plays are about as lifeless as it is possible 
for drama to be. They are not, however, without some 
literary quaUties. Many of the descriptions are really fine 
and some of the speeches really eloquent. The chorus often 
indulges in brilliant philosophizing. The meters conform 
closely to the usage of the Augustan poets, but — and here 
again dramatic instinct fails — the meter does not harmo- 
nize with its dramatic significance. Moreover, the plays are 
discursive. I think that the strongest evidence that they 
are from the pen of Seneca is the fact that they lack organic 
structure. Now this is a characteristic of all the books of 
which Seneca is unquestionably the author. The essays and 
the epistles are discursive in the extreme and even the 
Naturales Quaestiones shows the same characteristic. 

How dear these declamations would be to the hearts of 
the Elizabethans will be apparent, I think, from one pas- 
sage in the Troades — a duel of words between Pyrrhus and 
Agamemnon. The plot of the Troades or Trojan Women 
is as follows. 

The long and toilsome siege of Troy is done. Her stately 


palaces and massive walls have been overthrown and lie 
darkening the sky with their still-smouldering ruins. Her 
heroic defenders are either slain or scattered, seeking other 
homes in distant lands. The victorious Greeks have gath- 
ered the rich spoils of Troy upon the shore, among them the 
Trojan women, who have suffered the usual fate of women 
when a city is sacked. They await the lot that shall assign 
them to their Grecian lords and scatter them among the 
cities of their foes. All things are ready for the start. 

But now the ghost of Achilles has risen from the tomb 
and has demanded that Polyxena be sacrificed to him be- 
fore the Greeks shall be allowed to sail away. And Calchas, 
also, bids that Astyanax be slain, for only thus can Greece 
be safe from any future Trojan war. And thus the Trojan 
captives who have so long endured the pains of war must 
suffer still this double tragedy. After the ghost of Achilles 
has appeared to his son Pyrrhus, the latter, in two full pages 
of text, addresses Agamemnon, stating the wishes of his 
father's ghost; in an equally extensive speech, Agamemnon 
replies. Then the duel begins. 
Agamemnon: But, of a truth, no fear thy father felt; 

But while our Greece lay bleeding, and her ships 
With hostile fire were threatened, there he lay 
Supine and thoughtless of his warlike arms; 
And idly strumming on his tuneful lyre. 
Pyrrhus: Then mighty Hector, scornful of thy arms. 

Yet felt such wholesome fear of that same lyre. 
That our Thessalian ships were left in peace. 
Agamemnon: An equal peace did Hector's father find 
When he betook him to Achilles' ships. 



Pyrrhus: 'Tis regal thus to spare a kingly life. 
Agamemnon: Why then didst thou a kingly life despoil? 
Pyrrhus: But mercy oft doth offer death for life. 
Agamemnon: Doth mercy now demand a maiden's blood? 
Pyrrhus: Canst thou proclaim such sacrifice a sin? 
Agamemnon: A king must love his country more than child. 
Pyrrhus: No law the wretched captive's life doth spare. 
Agamemnon: What law forbids not, this let shame forbid. 
Pyrrhus: 'Tis victor's right to do whate'er he will. 
Agamemnon: Then should he will the least, who most can do. 
Pyrrhus: Dost thou boast thus, from whose tyrannic reign 

Of ten long years but now the Greeks I freed? 
Agamemnon: Such airs from Scyros! 

Pyrrhus: Thence no brother's blood.^ 

Agamemnon: Hemmed by the sea! 
Pyrrhus: Yet that same sea is ours.^ 

But as for Pelop's house, I know it well. 
Agamemnon: Thou baseborn son of maiden's secret sin, 

And young Achilles, scarce of man's estate — 
Pyrrhus: Yea, that Achilles who, by right of birth. 

Claims equal sovereignty of triple realms: 

His mother rules the sea, to Aeacus 

The shades submit, to mighty Jove the heavens. 
Agamemnon: Yet that Achilles lies, by Paris slain! 
Pyrrhus: But by Apollo's aid, who aimed the dart; 

For no God dared to meet him face to face.* 

* A reference to Atreus and Thyestes, father and uncle of Agamemnon, 
who committed horrible crimes against each other. 

'This fact was true, because Achilles was the son of Thetis, a sea 

*Troades, 11. 319 ff. The passage is quoted from Miller's excellent 



The writers of the Renaissance regarded these wordy 
and hfeless dramas as real plays and hence arose the wide 
influence they exercised then and afterward. 

But it does make one pause and ponder and marvel that 
the elder Scaliger, counted the greatest scholar and critic of 
his age, could thus characterize Seneca, the dramatist! "In- 
ferior in majesty to none of the Greeks — in culture and 
polish greater than Euripides." It has always seemed to me 
that the influence of Seneca, extending across the very 
threshold of modern times, is most conspicuously displayed 
in the work of Corneille and Racine, especially the former. 
Granted that these authors possess dramatic genius, their 
plays exhibit that fundamental rhetorical and declamatory 
cast that was the striking quality of the Senecan plays. 





CLASSIC Rome may not lay claim to much originality 
in the invention and perfection of Uterary forms. 
That was the work of a people of far finer sensibility and 
of greater genius in the realm of art. In literature Rome 
claims to be the inventor, perfector, and creator in but 
one field — that of satire. Rome's greatest intellectual 
achievements fall within the domain of law and govern- 
ment, and it is perhaps partly due to the practical quality 
of mind that made them prominent in these fields that the 
Romans also became and remained the masters of the classi- 
cal literary epistle. For though the letter is classed by Greek 
and Latin rhetoricians as a branch of belles-lettres and is 
properly so classed, it has much in common with the practi- 
cal everyday activities of men. The fact that Rome became 
a world power and that her provincial governors and offi- 
cials were in constant communication with the home gov- 
ernment and with friends contributed perhaps more than 
all else to the development of letter writing in the time of 
the republic and the empire. At any rate the Romans be- 
came and remained the masters of epistolary form. The 
classic literature of Greece contains nothing comparable to 
the unique collections of Cicero, of Pliny, and of Seneca. 


We have, to be sure, in the work of Hercher entitled 
Epistolographi Graeci, a generous work of some eight hun- 
dred pages, a collection of Greek letters, many of them pur- 
porting to have been written by Greeks of the classic period. 
Since the time of Richard Bentley it has been known that 
a large number of these are spurious. Among them are one 
hundred and sixty-five letters attributed to Phalaris, tyrant 
of Agrigentum in Sicily from 570 to 554 B. C, which Bent- 
ley proved to be arrant forgeries and which he attributed to 
a Sophist or rhetorician writing as late as the second cen- 
tury A. D. In the mass of evidence arrayed against their 
authenticity, Bentley cites the mention of towns that did 
not exist in the time of Phalaris; the imitation of authors 
such as Herodotus, who wrote long after Phalaris had 
passed away; references to tragedies, though tragedies had 
not yet been invented; and the fact that the dialect in which 
the letters were written was Attic instead of Dorian as it 
would have been had they been authentic. In all probability 
the letters attributed to Socrates, Xenophon, Aristippus, 
Euripides, and Alciphron are also spurious. 

The letters in the collection cited as those of Herodotus 
and Thucydides are probably not the identical letters writ- 
ten by the individuals to whom they are assigned, but, like 
the speeches composed by these authors and put into the 
mouths of historical personages, are what these individuals 
might reasonably be supposed to have written under the 
circumstances. This convention of assigning letters and 
speeches to historical characters passed into Latin literature. 
Some of Livy's most brilliant and effective writing is in 
this form. 



We also find in Latin the one instance with which I am 
familiar where it is possible to check the historian's record 
of a speech by a comparison with the original. Tacitus, in 
his Annals, incorporates a speech of Claudius, given in the 
senate, on the extension of the right of holding office to the 
inhabitants of transalpine Gaul. The Tacitean speech is 
well composed, with just a touch of the antiquarian pedan- 
try of Claudius to make it characteristic. The original 
speech, preserved in an inscription discovered at Lug- 
dunum (Lyons), is loose and rambling and wearisome. 
Without distorting the facts Tacitus has made the speech 
readable. It would seem to be reasonable, then, to assimie 
that had Tacitus had a better model to follow, he would 
have reproduced it more closely. We may go still further 
and say that if he is as true to his originals in general as in 
this somewhat unpromising instance, we may read his 
speeches with the conviction that we are at least receiving 
the meaning and the spirit, if not the letter, of the original. 

In this sense some of the letters in the Hercher collec- 
tion taken from Thucydides and possibly those taken from 
Herodotus may also be considered as having a genuine 
source. After sifting out the spurious letters we have re- 
maining a small collection that may be genuine, possibly 
including some of those attributed to Isocrates and Plato. 
It may be said in general, however, not only of the avowedly 
spurious but of the possibly genuine Greek letters, that 
they are highly artificial in character and serve as a medium 
of argumentation on a variety of subjects. In other words, 
they are of a rhetorical cast. 

Mention may be made here of the rich collection of Greek 


papyri that has been recovered and is being recovered at 
the present time, which already comprises hundreds of 
Greek letters on all imaginable topics. It will be remem- 
bered, however, that the mass of letters recovered deals for 
the most part with Egyptian life in the time of the Ptole- 
mies and in the Graeco-Roman and Byzantine period and 
that they lay no claim to literary merit. Our statement, 
therefore, that classic Greek literature presents nothing 
comparable to the epistolary collections of Cicero, Pliny, 
and Seneca may stand unchallenged. 

Formal rhetoric, which claimed the right to supervise all 
literary activity, laid down the canons of epistolary form as 
a branch of belles-lettres. This influence may be detected 
even in the letters of Cicero, notwithstanding their natural- 
ness and spontaneity. 

The rules of the rhetoricians molded official correspond- 
ence in particular, and under their influence the letter began 
to be used for purposes quite different from those for which 
it was originally intended. For instance, it was used as a 
form of eulogy or for historical exposition. To give certain 
phases of history the stamp of weighty authority, letters 
were cited purporting to have emanated from distinguished 
characters of the period under discussion. 

The didactic epistle, or the letter whose function is that 
of instruction or propaganda, is a descendant of the dia- 
logue, which was a favorite classic form for the dissemina- 
tion of historical, literary, philosophical, rhetorical, and 
legal knowledge and theories. In the hands of Plato it 
became one of the most attractive forms of literature, and 


most of Cicero's rhetorical, philosophical, and legal treatises 
are cast in this form. 

When the philosophical schools had spread their influ- 
ence beyond the locality where they had originated and 
when their teachers had multiplied, it was but natural that 
the epistle should become the form best suited to the dis- 
semination of the tenets of the various sects. The founder 
of Epicureanism himself was the first to use this form for 
instruction and, though the teaching of his school abjured 
all rhetorical embellishments, Epicurus found himself ob- 
liged to conform more or less to the rules of rhetorical 
theory as formulated by Socrates. 

It was the collection of letters written by the heads of 
various philosophical schools that made it possible to formu- 
late their views into systems of philosophy. One ultimate 
source of knowledge of the tenets of the Epicurean system 
consists of two epistles by its founder, which are preserved 
in Diogenes Laertius' Lives of the Philosophers. Philo- 
sophic disputation was now conducted, therefore, in the 
form of monologue as it had formerly been in the form of 
dialogue, for the letter is, as the ancients themselves re- 
marked, but one-half of a dialogue. 

Instruction by letter spread from philosophy to other 
fields. The moralizing letter was to classical times what 
the sermon was, shall we say, to our just passing generation. 
All of Seneca's epistles are examples of practical moral in- 
struction based largely on Stoic principles. The apostolic 
epistles of the New Testament, though not falling in the 
group of the classics, a^e examples in point. Epistles. from 

•{ 97 f 


the emperor to his representatives in the provinces became 
one of the sources of laws. His answers to inquiries made 
by his governors were known as rescripts, or repHes, and 
had the force of laws. Posidonius, a Stoic and one of the 
older contemporaries of Cicero, introduced the epistle as 
a literary form to the Romans, though practical letter writ- 
ing had naturally long been in use among them. From 
his time the Romans became and remained the masters of 
the classical literary epistle. 

Artemon, a Greek philosopher of the second century A. D., 
was the first to emphasize the fact that a letter was nothing 
more than a halved dialogue. For that reason its tone is to 
be that of refined conversation, more carefully thought out, 
in fact, than the dialogue — which, at least in appearance, is 
improvised, while the letter is the result of reflection. The 
letter should be brief and concise and should be uninter- 
rupted by question and answer; and it should not have the 
balanced periodic structure of other forms of literature. It 
may be embellished by frequent quotation from proverbs, 
and the first requirement is that both tone and content be 
adapted to the character of the recipient. 

Cicero draws a distinction between the careful style of 
official correspondence and the less formal tone of private 
letters. During the later period of his life he devoted much 
time to rhetorical investigation, in the course of which he 
was led into the field of epistolary theory. In his corre- 
spondence we find a classification of possible forms. He 
draws a distinction between litterae privatae and litterae 
publicae, or those intended for the eye of one individual 
and those that are to meet the public gaze. They are to be 

-{98 I- 


distinguished even as to the superscription, which, in the 
case of private correspondence, should merely give the cog- 
nomen of the person addressed. These confidential letters 
are to be free and easy both in tone and content. The 
sermo cotidianus, or, as we would say, the conversational 
tone, is to be employed, and the iocatio, or flavoring of wit 
and humor, is to be introduced. 

Elsewhere Cicero, with that fondness for system and 
order that was perhaps the most striking characteristic of 
the Roman mind, divides letters according to content into: 
(1) those for the communication of news; (2) the genus 
jamiliare et iocosum, written in happy circumstances; (3) 
the genus severum et grave, written during times of mis- 
fortune and subdivided into (a) those merely conveying 
expressions of consolation and (b) those expressing both 
consolation and promises of aid. Even the later theorists 
did not go beyond this division. All that Quintilian has to 
say of the letter in his Institutiones is that it must be in 
oratio soluta, i.e., the strict laws of rhythmic close per- 
vading ancient oratory and history have no place in private 

After Quintilian it is not till the age of Symmachus that 
a theorist on the subject is met with. At the end of Victor's 
Ars rhetorica there is a special chapter entitled De epis- 
tolis — "Letters," in which the rules and regulations of the 
Greek textbooks are given a more practical turn. As the 
chapter is an excellent example of the ancient rhetorical 
treatment of epistolography, is not overlong, and does not 
seem to be available in English, we translate it in full : 

Many of the precepts governing conversation apply to letter 



writing as well. Letters may be divided into two classes, busi- 
ness letters and personal letters. Business letters treat of serious 
business matters. In this type all rhetorical embellishment is 
omitted for brevity's sake. In fact the only rule governing 
oratory, which applies to letter writing as well, is that the style 
be restrained and the language suited to the theme. If one 
incorporates an historical incident in a letter, its treatment 
should deviate somewhat from the strict historical style, that 
the flavor and charm of the epistolary form be not lost. If one 
write on an erudite subject, the discussion should be so carried 
on as not to destroy epistolary form. In personal letters the 
first consideration is brevity. Sentences should not, as Cato 
says, be disproportionately long. If curtailed, however, it 
should be in such a way that no word necessary to the sense 
be lacking; as a matter of fact, in Cicero's letters to Atticus 
and to Axius the word "thee" is frequently to be supplied. 
Perfect lucidity should characterize letters except when clan- 
destine correspondence is purposely carried on. Even there, 
though obscure to others, it should be perfectly clear to the 
recipients. It is also customary to employ a cipher in such let- 
ters. Caesar, Augustus, Cicero, and others did so. However, 
when no secrecy is employed, obscurity of meaning is to be 
avoided with even greater care than in oratory or conversa- 
tion; if you do not understand a speaker you can ask him to 
be clearer, something impossible in the case of letters. And for 
this reason obscure incidents, rare proverbs, peculiar words, 
and far-fetched figures are not to be employed. Nor should you 
in your zeal for excessive brevity leave half of your sentence to 
be conjectured, nor should lucidity be obscured by overattention 
to form. If you are writing to a superior do not indulge in 
jocular remarks; if to an equal, be kind and courteous; if to 
an inferior, avoid haughtiness. Don't write in a careless man- 

i 100 y 


ner in addressing a scholar; nor in a slovenly manner when 
addressing a person of ordinary attainment; nor slightingly to 
a mere acquaintance; nor coldly to one with whom you are on 
moderate terms of intimacy. Be generous in your congratula- 
tion to the successful that his pleasure may be enhanced. When 
you meet sorrow console, but judiciously, for a new wound 
shrinks from the touch. Banter with your friends by letter but 
remember that they may re-read these letters when they are in 
no bantering frame of mind. One should never indulge in a 
reproach — least of all in a letter. The introduction and the 
ending of letters should keep in view degree of friendship and 
difference of position. 

When answering a letter we should have it before us for fear 
of forgetting something requiring an answer. Our ancestors 
observed the practice of writing with their own hand letters 
addressed to their most intimate friends and for the most part 
signed their names at the end. 

Letters of recommendation should be written in good faith 
or not sent at all. Such will be the case when as a friend you 
write to a friend, and your request is reasonable and possible. 
To embellish your letter with Greek is an attractive custom, 
provided discrimination is shown and the practice not over- 
done. It is also proper to quote a well-known proverb or a 
line of poetry. It is quite taking at times to write as though 
your friend were present — thus: "look you," or "see here," or 
"I see you smile derisively." Many instances of this practice 
are found in Cicero's correspondence. But, as we have said, 
this is to be confined to familiar letters. The other type requires 
a higher degree of seriousness. Our last injunction is that let- 
ters and their endings be couched in courteous terms. 

So much for Victor's treatment of the subject. It will be 
conceded on the strength of the evidence just submitted 

i 101 y 


that, despite the dryness characterizing systematic rhetorical 
treatment, a degree of good sense is displayed by the ancient 
rhetoricians in the formal treatment of correspondence. 

The poetic epistle was a favorite form in Roman litera- 
ture and was a natural development of the letter used for 
rhetorical purposes. Any poem may, as a matter of fact, 
become an epistle by being addressed to a definite indi- 

The episdes of Horace are the best known. Some of 
them are real letters, more of them interesting sketches of 
Roman life and manners, and several of them essays upon 
literary, dramatic, and philosophic subjects. Ovid's ficti- 
tious love letters of ladies of the mythological age to their 
usually faithless lovers or husbands are highly polished pro- 
ductions; then, too, we have his real letters of complaint 
and lamentation in verse, written from his place of exile. 
From a later age we have the twenty-five metrical epistles 
of Ausonius and those of Statins, many of which are real 
letters in various meters. The same may be said of those 
of Claudian and of some of those of Apollinaris Sidonius. 

It is, however, with the prose letter that we are chiefly 
concerned. Specimens of it previous to the age of Cicero 
are meager enough, as the following summary will show. 

Cato the Censor (234-149 B.C.), known as the earliest 
prose writer of the Romans, left a collection of letters to his 
son, which is mentioned by Cicero and Plutarch. The fol- 
lowing quotation, cited by Pliny the Elder, on Greek quack 
doctors may have been taken from a book of precepts that 
Cato dedicated to his son, but it may with equal probabihty 


have belonged to the correspondence. It is typical o£ the 
hard-headed, rugged, and narrow-minded Roman. 
Son Marcus: I shall speak about those Greeks at the proper 
time and tell you what I have discovered at Athens and why 
it is profitable to have a slight but not an intimate acquaintance 
with their literature. I'll prove that they are a good-for-nothing, 
stiff-necked people. Take it from me that whenever that nation 
shall spread its culture it will destroy everything; the more, if 
it shall send its doctors here. They have sworn an oath to slay 
all foreigners and they will do this by practicing their profes- 
sion to arouse confidence and do their murders with ease. Even 
us they call barbarians and befoul us more than others by call- 
ing us Hottentots. I forbid you to have anything to do with 

In antiquity, letters of Cornelia, the mother of the Grac- 
chi, addressed to her son Gains were current. Two frag- 
ments — one of iive, the other of twenty-two lines, are pre- 
served in the manuscripts of Cornelius Nepos. In the latter 
excerpt she roundly upbraids her son for disturbing her 
peace of mind by engaging in hazardous and dubious 
political agitation. 

Letters of Varro, the most learned of the Romans, as he 
was called, who flourished in the generation before Cicero, 
were known to antiquity but none have survived. There 
were several collections of Caesar's extensive correspond- 
ence published after his death. Some of these were in 
cipher, the key to which is given us by Suetonius. All we 
have now are six, included in the Ciceronian collection. 
The historian Sallust quotes some letters in his historical 
works that are apparently genuine. These are Lentulus to 

i 103 y 


Catiline, those of Catiline, Pompey to the senate, and King 
Mithridates to Arsaces. One manuscript of Sallust con- 
tains a long letter, which is evidently spurious, addressed 
ad Caesarem senem, being a rhetorical exercise of the 
period of the empire. The correspondence between Cicero 
and Marcus Brutus, murderer of Caesar, has been very 
imperfectly preserved, but we have in the collection a num- 
ber from Brutus' pen. 

Of work in prose by Vergil we read only of his corre- 
spondence with Augustus, which was perhaps pubUshed by 
the latter after Vergil's death. There are specimens quoted 
by Donatus in his life of Vergil and in Macrobius. This 
comprises about all we know of Latin letter writers pre-* 
vious to the era of Pliny the Younger, and were it not for 
Cicero's voluminous correspondence our information for 
the period would indeed be meager. 

Four collections of Cicero's correspondence are extant; 
two larger, the Epistulae ad familiares and Ad Atticum, 
each in sixteen books, and two smaller. Ad Quintum jrat- 
trem, in three books, and Ad Brutum, in two. The entire 
corpus consists of seven hundred and seventy-four letters 
by Cicero and ninety by correspondents. The period cov- 
ered is about twenty-five years and falls within the last half 
of his life, six hundred of the letters having been written 
within the last nine years. Cicero had no hand in the col- 
lection of the letters nor in their publication. When writing 
them he had not the faintest idea that they would reach 
the eye of the public. Hence their unexampled ingenuous- 
ness. It was the custom at this period for men of affairs to 
file all correspondence and to keep copies of their own let- 

^ 104 > 


ters. That Cicero did so we definitely know. Tiro, Cicero's 
secretary, probably prepared for publication the Ad jami- 
Hares. Atticus himself prepared the collection Ad Atticum. 
The collection Ad Brutum seems to be very incomplete. 
During the Middle Ages the letters were lost. Three of the 
collections were rediscovered at Verona in the fourteenth 
century by Petrarch. The fourth reappeared at the end of 
the same century. 

The correspondence, treating of all imaginable phases of 
life, ranging from international diplomacy and national 
politics to the infelicities of the domestic hearth, is of in- 
tense interest and of great historical value. The letters 
emanate from the mind of the most cultured statesman of 
his time, who took a leading role in the great drama of the 
fall of the republic — a drama in which there were many 
other distinguished actors: Caesar, Pompey, Mark An- 
tony, Brutus, Cassius, and on the denouement of which 
depended the destiny of the world. All these actors and the 
issues involved appear as living images and vital questions 
in the pages of Cicero. In this respect the correspondence 
of Cicero is unsurpassed by anything that antiquity has left 
us. The society of the age — the cultured, the official, the 
frivolous — lives again. 

It is the human interest, however, that surpasses all else. 
In the correspondence we see a human soul in the naked- 
ness of truth; we see intense egotism, duplicity, fear, un- 
manly lamentation of exile, recrimination, arid, on the other 
hand, burning patriotism, tireless activity, the power to 
face dangerous crises, family affection, humanity toward 
dependents, and a love of country that in the end accepts 

-( 105 > 


death with calmness and fortitude. In fact, we recognize 
that mixture of good and evil, strength and weakness, 
idealism and materialism that unites to form the nature of 
most of us. This frankness on the part of Cicero has pro- 
vided his critics, notably Mommsen (who, by the way, 
wrote Roman history with a preconceived ideal of national 
felicity and saw in Caesar the founder of a system that had 
culminated in a kaiser), with material with which to assail 
with telling effect the champions of democracy. 

A careful perusal of the letters will convince an unpreju- 
diced reader that the vacillation with which Cicero is 
charged is the vacillation of a mind that sees many sides 
of a question and weighs them all. We can detect every 
thought that flits through his active mind, but the history 
of his life indubitably shows that when his mind was 
clearly made up as to the justice of a course, he could, on 
at least some critical occasions, be consistent, persevering, 
and brave in pursuing it. That he loved his country with 
as unselfish a love as it is given to most patriots to do is 
also clear. In addition to his pronounced egoism Cicero 
possessed a power without which his correspondence could 
raise but a temporary interest. We refer to the power of de- 
tachment, which could rise superior to its surroundings 
and could comment upon the scenes that so vitally affected 

The style of the letters reflects the mood of the moment 
or the intention of the author. Some are colloquial to the 
verge of slang. Some are constrained in tone, especially 
those in which the politician Cicero meets the advances of 
his opponent Caesar. To some correspondents, notably to 

«{ 106 )- 


Lentulus, Appius, and Plancus, Cicero writes with all the 
elegance o£ a careful literary style. 

Cicero's correspondence is more or less familiar to those 
who have had any contact with Roman literature. The let- 
ters of Seneca, entitled Epistulae morales, are not as well 
known as they deserve to be. 

Seneca, called the Philosopher to distinguish him from 
his father, the Rhetorician, was the most brilliant of that 
coterie of writers of the Spanish school that counted among 
its members Lucan, the author of the Pharsalia, and Martial 
the Epigrammatist. He is best known in history as one of 
Nero's tutors and guides during the first years of his reign, 
when he exercised an influence in matters of state loosely 
similar to that of a prime minister in more recent times. It 
is generally conceded that he served his country well and 
that the auspicious character of the first five years of Nero's 
reign was largely due to his influence, abetted by the good 
sense and integrity of Burrus, commander of the imperial 
guards. The financial reforms of Nero's reign are rightly 
attributed to the foresight and wisdom of Seneca. His tact 
was shown in his management of the difficult empress 
mother, Agrippina. Whether he and Burrus were cog- 
nizant of Nero's schemes to murder his mother we do not 
know. We do know that after the deed was committed 
they acquiesced in it and palliated it. 

There has always been hot discussion as to Seneca's 
merits, dating even from his own time. He is harshly criti- 
cized by Quintilian and others. It is to be noted, however, 
that Quintilian, an avowed Ciceronian, attacks him on the 
ground of style rather than content, Seneca being one of 

i 107 y 


the earliest proponents of the silver Latin style and cer- 
tainly the most influential and distinguished of them. His 
radicalism in thought, too, gave much offense to conserva- 
tives. It is not, how^ever, apparent that his wisdom was 
called into question by his contemporaries. 

During the early empire the two schools of philosophy 
that exercised the greatest influence were the Stoic and the 
Epicurean, for the reason that more than others they em- 
phasized the ethical side of philosophy and esteemed it 
primarily as it served to guide and regulate men's conduct. 
In fact, as has been often noted, the philosopher of the 
period held in some of the noble houses a position fairly 
analogous to that of the private chaplain of a later date. 

Seneca's position at court combined this function of spir- 
itual advisor with that of his other duties. He was by 
nature and taste a moral teacher and in the uncongenial 
surroundings of the imperial palace he formulated the plan 
of addressing his teachings or sermons to a wider public. 
Hence the production of his series of essays on ethical 
themes and hence that collection of letters that best illus- 
trates his peculiar talent. These letters are in reality essays, 
a fact that Francis Bacon was the first to point out. Ad- 
dressed to his young Epicurean friend Lucilius, they were 
in reality written for the public, or rather for the cultured 
few to whom they would appeal. As with most Romans, 
Seneca's tendencies in philosophy were catholic and he may 
be termed an eclectic. He more than once affirms that truth 
is confined to no one school and freely draws upon the Epi- 
curean masters to illustrate his teachings. None the less 
Seneca is thoroughly imbued with Stoic principles and we 

i 108 1- 


are certainly justified in calling him a Stoic, using the term 
in a broad sense. 

Seneca is famous for his brilUant epigrammatic style, 
which is known as the pointed style to distinguish it from 
the periodic style as illustrated in the writings of Cicero. 
The pointed style reaches its culmination in the Moral Epis- 
tles. The sparkling epigrammatic character of the work 
might lead one to expect a high degree of artificiality both 
in style and treatment, but this is far from true. I well 
recall my own surprise on first becoming acquainted with 
these letters to find the vocabulary that of everyday life 
(except of course, as technical matters are from time to 
time mentioned) and the style quite colloquial. As a mat- 
ter of fact, they constitute a brilliant, scintillating conver- 
sation with the reader. 

Incidentally, the epistles convey many interesting details 
of Roman life and manners. This is in large part due to one 
of Seneca's favorite methods of approaching an ethical dis- 
cussion. To illustrate: Seneca, on visiting one of his sub- 
urban estates familiar to him as a boy, notes the marks of 
the ravages of time — the decrepit doorkeeper, the moss- 
covered and crumbUng masonry, the neglected trees, and so 
forth — all of which suggests and introduces a charming 
discussion on old age. 

The old formula for beginning a letter in vogue in 
Cicero's time, si vales bene est, ego valeo (literally, "if you 
are well, 'tis well, I, too, am well") suggests to Seneca the 
consideration of the efforts of the athlete to keep himself 
in perfect physical condition as compared with the common 
neglect of the condition of the mind and soul, whose health 

i 109 y 


is of even more importance than that of the body. The fes- 
tivities connected with the feast of the SaturnaUa in the 
month of December cause Seneca to remark that the love 
of pleasure has now so possessed the minds of men that the 
Saturnalia may be said to last the whole year through. 
A consideration of the fashionable life at Baiae, the famous 
pleasure resort of the Romans, introduces a discussion on 
public morals and on the demoralizing effect of luxury. 
The unusual sensations aroused by passing through the old 
tunnel on the road from Baiae to Naples leads to a consid- 
eration of the unreasoning fear to which men are subject. 
Many similar concrete approaches to his moralizing might 
be cited. 

Seneca's power as a moral teacher, however, springs from 
his profound knowledge of the human heart, his deep sym- 
pathy for human weakness, and his sure touch as a moral 
healer. Boissier quotes a French gentleman of the period 
of the French Revolution who stated that he found the 
moral epistles of Seneca tedious until the Reign of Terror 
came; that then, being in daily peril of his life, he came to 
understand their searching power. As one grows in moral 
experience, he gradually becomes convinced that, despite 
the weakness displayed by Seneca himself in many moral 
crises and despite the many concessions allowed by his sys- 
tem, his teachings are the noblest left us by classical an- 

His supremacy as a moral teacher, his approach to some 
of the teachings of Christianity, and the consequent paral- 
lelism between his sayings and many of those found in the 
New Testament gave rise to a belief, generally discredited 


by scholars but not yet entirely given up, that Seneca was 
personally acquainted with St. Paul and borrowed from 
him some of his lofty precepts. This belief also was un- 
doubtedly at the bottom of the most famous instance of 
forgery of Latin epistolography. 

In the Haase edition of the epistles of Seneca are four- 
teen letters purporting to have passed between St. Paul and 
Seneca. The fact that sixty manuscripts of these letters sur- 
vive indicates that they were well known before the Refor- 
mation. Scholars believe that the forgery took place in the 
fourth century and that its purpose was to interest Christian 
readers in Seneca, and pagan readers in Christianity. They 
are first mentioned by St. Jerome, who states that the only 
reason that he includes Seneca in a catalogue of the saints 
is the existence of this widely read collection. St. Augustine 
repeats what Jerome has said, and during the Middle Ages 
these letters are frequently mentioned. Modern scholarship 
rejects them as forgeries, basing its judgment upon the 
triviality of the thought, the dissimilarity of style to known 
genuine writings, and the chronological discrepancies. 

There is such a remarkable similarity between the 
thought and expression of Seneca and St. Paul that St. 
Augustine, earliest of the Christian fathers, about a century 
and a half after Seneca, styles him "often our own." Some- 
what later Lactantius cites similarities between the teach- 
ings of the Gospels and the thought of Seneca. He regards 
him, however, as fundamentally a Stoic, and he is correct 
in that view. St. Jerome, three hundred and fifty years 
after Seneca, also speaks of Seneca as "our own," omitting 
the qualifying "often" of Augustine. From St. Jerome's 



time on, Seneca was regarded almost as a father of the 
Church. Lightfoot, in his account of Seneca's relation to 
St. Paul, cites the interesting fact that "even at the present 
day, in the marionette plays of his native Spain, *St. Sen- 
eca' takes his place by the side of St. Peter and St. Paul in 
the representations of the Lord's Passion." 

Seneca's message to the modern world, which is best 
expressed in his epistles, is still vital, and recent criticism 
tends to give him a higher place than he has lately held as 
a thinker and moral teacher. Among modern thinkers who 
have admired him may be mentioned Matthew Arnold, 
Sainte-Beuve, and Emerson. 

We have in the letters of Pliny the Younger, whose most 
important official activity fell in the reign of Hadrian, the 
work of a gentleman and a scholar — of a man of talent but 
not of genius. The letters are filled with subjects of interest 
in the life of a busy yet thoughtful man who was a pol- 
ished, urbane member of a highly cultivated circle and 
intimately acquainted with all who were worth knowing 
in his day. He considered letter writing an art, and as a 
result all his letters, even official ones, were composed with 
great care. 

The historical value of the letters is great. They serve to 
correct the gloomy picture of first-century life as depicted 
in the annals of court life, in the bitter pages of the satirists, 
and in the indictments of the moral reformer, by presenting 
a phase of Roman society that is fundamentally pure, cul- 
tured,- and inspired by high ideals of duty and public 

Pliny, to be sure, is revealed as a man inordinately fond 


of praise and craving posthumous fame. He was, however, 
a man of affairs and had held all the important offices of 
state, culminating in that of the governorship of one of the 
imperial provinces. His extreme vanity does not in the least 
impair the value of his testimony as to the moral tone of 
his age nor, for me, the charm of his writing. In fact, the 
expression of this vanity in one so fundamentally honor- 
able and likable often adds piquancy to the expression of 
his thought. 

The arrangement of the letters appears to be roughly 
chronological and shows a painstaking care to secure a 
sequence that will present a pleasing variety of theme. The 
collection appears in nine books. A tenth book includes 
the correspondence with Trajan, the greater part of which 
relates to official business. In the official letters Pliny ap- 
pears as a very busy man conscientiously devoted to the 
wide and exacting tasks of his office. He seems, however, 
to lack initiative and often appeals to the emperor in cases 
where it is apparent that he should have made his own deci- 
sion. The emperor's replies are characterized by great dig- 
nity and good sense. 

After Pliny's time the letter became more artificial and 
formal, the substance of it being often quite subordinate to 
the form. To this type belong the letters of Pliny's tutor. 
Pronto, to Marcus Aurelius, which are labored in style but 
reflect the character of the writer as an upright, inde- 
pendent man of limited capacity. 

Aurelius Symmachus, famed in his time as an orator and 
a defender of the old Roman faith, flourished during the 
last half of the fifth century. He was of a senatorial family 


and attained the high positions of prefect of the city and 
consul. His official reports, which form the tenth book of 
his correspondence, are the most interesting and valuable 
part of the work. One of these consists of his petition to 
have the altar of victory in the hall of the senate restored; 
he makes a cogent argument, expresses himself happily, 
and keeps his temper. If we compare the replies of Bishop 
Ambrose and Prudentius with this, the palm for courtesy 
and good taste must go to the so-called pagan. 

This tenth book bears favorable comparison with the 
tenth book of Pliny's correspondence. Indeed Symmachus 
appears in these documents to be a man of stronger and 
more independent judgment than Pliny. The other nine 
books, modeled in general on those of Pliny, are inferior to 
them. They are somewhat wordy and they do not add 
much to our knowledge of the history of the age. Among 
them are letters of congratulation, of condolence, of invita- 
tion and of introduction, accounts of journeys and the 
writer's state of health, and so forth. 

Of much greater interest are the nine books of corre- 
spondence of Sidonius Apollonaris, the most gifted of the 
Gallo-Romans of the latter part of the fourth century. 
These letters, numbering about one hundred and fifty, are 
the best source of information on Roman provincial life 
during the years of the Western Empire. They are ac- 
knowledged to be difficult reading because of their involved 
and artificial style and are sometimes dull. When Sidonius 
forgets his rhetoric, however, the letters become natural and 
consequently easy to read. 

Perhaps the historical importance of his letters may be 

i 114 ^ 


best judged from a brief sketch of his varied and interest- 
ing life. He was a Gaul born at Lyon about 431 A.D., and 
he died at Clermont about 489; consequently he saw the 
fall of the Western Empire and is the chief authority for 
some of the facts of that period. He was twenty-four years 
old when the Vandals plundered Rome, and he lived to see 
Romulus Augustulus, the last emperor of the West, give 
place to Odoacer. He knew or corresponded with almost 
every secular person of importance of the period and he 
wrote also to the chief church dignitaries of Gaul. He saw 
the old order pass away but he stood on the very threshold 
of medieval society. 

Like his famous countryman, Gregory of Tours, the first 
historian of France, he belonged to a senatorial family of the 
office-holding nobility of Gaul. He was educated in Lyon, 
the city of his birth, the schools of which ranked next to 
those of Bordeaux and Toulouse. Oratory was his favorite 
study. He married a daughter of Avitus, subsequently em- 
peror at Rome, who possessed an estate in Auvergne, be- 
tween which place and Lyon, Sidonius divided his time. 
This estate became his on Avitus' death. During his early 
married life Sidonius visited the court of Theodoric II, 
Visigothic king at Toulouse, of whom he has left us a vivid 
description in one of his letters. He accompanied his father- 
in-law to Rome when the latter was invested with the royal 
purple. Avitus' subsequent fall was a sad blow to the ambi- 
tions of Sidonius. Though he gained the favor of the Em- 
peror Marjorian, Avitus' successor, he was again doomed 
to disappointment, since that emperor's reign was also brief. 
Sidonius then retired to his estate in Auvergne, where, 

-! 115}- 


amid delightful surroundings and in the midst of cultured 
friends, he spent the next six years. Many of his friends 
from Bordeaux and Narbonne visited him, and some of his 
most interesting letters date from this period. But he had 
tasted the pleasure of high position at Rome and he was to 
a certain extent a disappointed man. His hopes revived 
when he was selected as chief of an embassy sent to Rome 
to confer with the Emperor Anthemius. He himself tells 
us the story of the panegyric that he delivered on the occa- 
sion of the emperor's assumption of his second consulship, 
for which he was rewarded with the prefecture of the city, 
one of the highest titles under the empire. 

After a somewhat troubled term as prefect of Rome, 
Sidonius received the title of patrician and retired to his 
estate in Gaul. On the death of the bishop of Clermont, 
Sidonius, at the age of forty, was prevailed upon to assume 
the office. He must have been inspired by a sense of duty 
in taking the position, as he had already attained a much 
higher position in point of dignity and influence, the office 
of prefect of Rome and the title of patrician. 

While bishop of Clermont he helped the city support the 
rigors of a protracted siege by Euric, king of the Visigoths. 
The outcome of the struggle was the cession of Auvergne 
to the Goths; in consequence Sidonius ceased to be a citizen 
of the Roman Empire, a circumstance that caused him bit- 
ter grief. His beloved Aviticum was confiscated and he was 
imprisoned for his share in the resistance. After his release 
he felt keenly his loss of influence and busied himself with 
his pastoral duties. His fall from high place left him much 
leisure, a fact to which we owe most of his nine books of 

i 116 y 


letters. For his friends, fearing that his misfortune might 
prey upon his mind and cause a mental breakdown, encour- 
aged him to engage in literary activities. Besides his letters 
he wrote ecclesiastical treatises, which are now lost, and 
poems — chiefly inscriptions for churches — and panegyrics. 
He died peacefully at Clermont. Such was the rich and 
active life many scenes of which are exhibited to posterity 
in his collection of letters. 

In this summary of Roman letter writers we have omitted 
the Christian fathers. Among those of the period between 
Fronto and Sidonius who have left collections of letters are 
Cyprian, Lactantius, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and a 
few others. As would be natural to expect, their corre- 
spondence deals largely with doctrinal and controversial 
points. This is true even of Augustine and in consequence 
his letters do not make that appeal to the modern reader 
that the deep spiritual contemplation of his confessions does. 

The letters of Eunodius, bishop of Pavia, who flourished 
in the early part of the sixth century, reveal strikingly the 
deterioration of letter writing from the not-too-high stand- 
ard of Sidonius. In his correspondence, consisting of two 
hundred and ninety-seven letters addressed to ecclesiastics, 
to statesmen, and to his sisters and other relatives, we 
search in vain for mention of public or political topics. 





SHORT stories of amours, adventure, and magic, such as 
have for ages flourished in the Orient, became known 
to the Greeks of Asia Minor. Collections of these tales may 
have been w^ritten dovs^n and given the name of the city or 
region in which they were compiled or whose life they 
purported to depict. Thus we hear of Milesian tales.^ Such 
tales spread to Italy and became popular in Magna Graecia 
even before they flourished in Greece proper, and the city 
of Sybaris lent its name to the Sybaritic tales.^ Mention 
is also made of Trojan, Pallenian, Naxian, Sicilian, and 
Bithynian collections.^ 

Since the tale of the "Matron of Ephesus" in the Satyri- 
con of Petronius (generally regarded as giving a fair idea 
of what Milesian tales were like) would in all probability 
belong to an Ephesian collection and since the extant speci- 
men of the Sybaritic contains nothing strikingly character- 
istic,^ not even the element of lewdness supposed to be an 
essential of the Milesian tale, it seems probable that these 
different classes were but different names for a general class 
of stories, the main or sole purpose of which was entertain- 
ment.^ It was quite natural that those gifted and impres- 

* Notes will be found at the end of the paper, on pages 146-147. 



sionable lonians o£ Miletus should excel in this type of 
story and that the word "Milesian" should come to stand 
for the whole genre. These Milesian tales are of consid- 
erable interest as the forerunners of the more elaborate 
Greek romances^ that flourished from the second to the 
fifth centuries, of which the Daphne and Chloe of Longus 
is the best known. They are the prototypes of those tales 
so popular in France and Italy, of which Boccaccio's are the 
most famous. 

Parthenius, Vergil's Greek teacher, has been thought to 
give the clearest idea of what the Milesian tales were, as the 
following quotation from Dunlop's History of Fiction 
shows: "^ "But though the Milesian tales have perished, of 
their nature some idea may be formed from the stories of 
Parthenius of Nicaea, many of which, there is reason to 
believe, are extracted from these ancient fables or at least 
are written in their spirit." 

It is indeed likely that those tales the scene of which 
is laid in Miletus and the theme of which is for the most 
part inconstancy were derived directly from collections 
of Milesian tales. It is also true that notes, either by Par- 
thenius or by a later hand, were prefixed to several of the 
tales, stating that they were taken from Milesian collections. 
However, it is well known that Parthenius explicitly stated 
that he composed the thirty-six skeleton tales called Erotic 
Experiences for his friend the Latin poet Cornelius Gallus, 
to serve as material for elegies and other poems. The very 
meagerness of those that can with certainty be called 
Milesian prevents their giving us an adequate notion of 
what Milesian tales were. 

-(119 1- 


The German scholar Christ, in his History of Gree\ 
Literature,^ suggests that the story of the "Matron of Ephe- 
sus" in Petronius furnishes us a good example of the Mile- 
sian tale, and this is undoubtedly correct in the early and 
restricted meaning of the term. To this we may add the 
stories of the "Lad of Pergamus" and "The SoHcitous 
Mother" in the same work. Christ seems also to make a 
proper distinction when he says that the forerunners of the 
Greek novel were the Milesian Tales of Aristides and the 
Erotic Experiences of Parthenius. 

Plutarch, in his Life of Crassus^ indicates clearly the 
unsavory character of the early Milesian tale. He says, in 
speaking of the events following the defeat of Crassus, the 
Roman general at Carrhae: 

But the vizier, calling together the senate of Seleusia, laid be- 
fore it certain books, the work of Aristides, his Milesiaca; these 
had not been forged, but had really been found in the baggage 
of Roscius and gave the vizier a good opening for directing 
insulting remarks against the Romans, who not even in time 
of war could refrain from such writings and doings. 

It will be well to note that the word used to designate 
Milesian tales in the passage just cited is Milesiaca, the 
Greek neuter plural of the adjective meaning Milesian, and 
that this is the word usually, although not exclusively, em- 
ployed in Greek in referring to them. 

We are to understand that the tales were normally 
written in prose. Dunlop's remark to the effect that a 
couplet in Ovid, 

lunxit Aristides Milesia carmina secum 

Pulsus Aristides nee tamen urbe sua est, 



would indicate that some of these tales had been written in 
verse, is of course based upon reading carmina, "songs" or 
"poems." The reading now universally accepted is crimina, 
"charges." The passage therefore states that the slanderous 
or rather scandalous Milesian tales that Aristides wrote in 
connection with his history (for so we understand the 
words iuxit secutn) did not cause his banishment.^^ 

The only evidence that these tales appeared in poetic 
form is derived from such poems as Phaedrus III, 10, and 
Babrius 116, where the subject is quite in the style of the 
early lewd Milesian tale. This, however, is inadequate evi- 
dence on which to base a statement that Milesian tales as 
such were sometimes written in metrical form. That poets 
of the type of Phaedrus and Babrius should select as a sub- 
ject for a poem a Milesian theme of the earlier type is quite 
natural. Had Cornelius Gallus composed elegies upon 
those themes furnished him by Parthenius and purporting 
to be derived from Milesian sources, we should hardly 
classify them as Milesian tales. 

This same Aristides is mentioned by Ovid in another 
couplet wherein he states that Si senna, a Roman writer, 
translated ^^ Aristides and that the latter inserted risque 
stories ^^ in his history. Chassang-^^ suggested that Aris- 
tides may have written a history of Miletus and may have 
cited numerous tales illustrative of Milesian life. This sug- 
gestion of Chassang is now quite convincing, since it has 
been definitely ascertained that the term Milesiaca was ap- 
plied to local histories of Miletus.^* 

This view is still further supported by the fact that Aris- 
tides wrote a number of local historical works of which 


the titles and some fragments have been preserved. Com- 
pare, therefore, his title, Milesiaca, which w^e conjecture to 
be primarily an historical work, w^ith his Italica, Sil^elica, 
and Persica, w^hich we know to be historical works.^^ We 
seem therefore reasonably justified in stating definitely that 
the term Milesiaca was first applied to local histories of the 
city and then to tales illustrative^^ of Milesian Ufe and 
characterized by lubricity, such tales in fact as are referred 
to in Plutarch. 

That Aristides was the collector of these tales rather than 
their author and that the term came to be applied to lewd 
stories in general are hypotheses at least suggested in the 
Amores of Lucian.^^ It is generally conceded that this 
work is falsely attributed to Lucian, but for our purpose 
the particular author is a matter of indifference. A charac- 
ter in the work, speaking of certain lewd stories, said that 
he might well believe that he was Aristides listening in 
delight to Milesian tales. 

The first step, therefore, in the use of the term Milesiaca 
was its application to local histories of Miletus; the second 
step, its use to signify stories illustrative of Milesian life and 
generally characterized by lubricity. The third and last step 
in the extension of the term is suggested by a passage in the 
life of Albinus in the Augustan Histories}^ In a letter sent 
to the senate by Severus, he remarks that among other facts 
he is grieved to see that many of them praise Albinus for 
his devotion to literature, while as a matter of fact he is in- 
terested in childish nursery rhymes and wastes his time on 
Apuleius' tales and in literary dilettantism.^® Now in the 
Latin the adjective Milesia with the word fabula or historia 


understood is usually employed to signify "Milesian tale." 
In the passage to which reference is made, the phrase inter 
Milesias Punicas Apulei sui is used, and the word Milesias 
has to such an extent lost its original meaning, "Milesian," 
that it is used as a noun and is itself modified by the adjec- 
tive Punicas. The two words mean "African Tales of Apu- 
leius," so-called of course because Apuleius was a native of 
Africa. A prettier bit of evidence could not be adduced to 
prove that the word Milesia is here used in the general 
sense of "tale"; and this is the third step in the application 
of the term. 

The interesting question arises as to how early this 
broader interpretation was applied to the term, for it is 
highly probable that such a meaning would be acquired 
only by gradual growth. There is nothing very conclusive 
on this point, but we may venture a suggestion. The epi- 
sode of "Cupid and Psyche "^'^ in Apuleius is called by him 
a Milesian tale.^^ This tale is undoubtedly of popular 
origin and in no sense an invention of Apuleius. The treat- 
ment of the myth as an erotic romance is quite in the style 
and taste of the Alexandrian school, which in its first or 
literary period flourished from about 323 to 30 B. C. If this 
story in the form transmitted by Apuleius owes its peculiar 
treatment as an erotic romance to the influence of Alexan- 
dria, we may place it before 30 B.C. and perhaps well 
along toward 100 B. C, the conjectured time of Aristides'^^ 

It may -therefore be safe to say that the term "Milesian" 
was applied certainly in the second century A. D. and per- 
haps as early as 100 B. C. to any tale written or narrated for 


entertainment and was, indeed, the short story of antiquity. 
That this last statement is true will be seen more clearly 
after an examination of the Metamorphoses, popularly 
known as the Golden Ass of Apuleius, the immediate pre- 
cursor of the Greek romance. There is, however, this dif- 
ference among others between the Metamorphoses as a 
whole and the Greek romances: the Greek works are erotic 
romances; in Apuleius love is entirely episodic. 

That the work of Apuleius is nothing but a collection of 
loosely connected Milesian tales in the broader sense of the 
term is clearly indicated by the author himself in his intro- 
ductory remarks, where he writes: "I will now string to- 
gether various tales in that Milesian style which is familiar 
to you."^^ As a matter of fact, the story of the Metamor- 
phoses, told in the first person by Lucius, a young Greek, 
from the beginning of his adventures to the end, when he 
makes his entrance into the order of the priests of Isis, 
serves as a means of joining together a number of stories 
on a wide range of subjects. Some of these are partly stories 
of experiences of Lucius himself and some are narratives 
entirely distinct from the main plot, but told by charac- 
ters appearing in it. This device is familiar to us from 
its use in the Decameron of Boccaccio. It is therefore by 
an examination of this treasure house that we form our 
clearest conception of the scope and character of the Mile- 
sian tales as the term seems to have been used shortly after 
the time of Aristides. There are readily detected thirteen 
tales entirely distinct from the main narrative; fifteen, if 
we divide the robber's tale into its three separate parts. 

These tales are exceedingly varied in character. There 


is the early lubricious Milesian type, as exemplified by the 
"Tale of the Tub" and "The Fuller's Wife," both of which 
reappear in Boccaccio; the merely risque type, such as that 
of "The Lost Slippers"; the tale of "The Enamoured Step- 
mother"; and the cruel vengeance of "The Jealous Wife"; 
several tales of witchcraft, undoubtedly of folklore origin; 
the celebrated tale of "Cupid and Psyche"; the elaborately 
tragic story of "Tlepolemus and Charite"; and several 

The plots vary from that of a simple incident as narrated 
in the tale of "Diophanes the Chaldaean," to the intricate 
and involved plot of the tale of "The Jealous Wife." In 
length they run from about a page of the Teubner text to 
the fifty pages of " Cupid and Psyche." 


In reading over these tales with an idea to classification, 
one finds that love or one of its debased relations, passion 
or lust, may be said to form the foundation for the greater 
number of them. But one loses sight of this in wonder at 
the involved plot. Many of the tales show much uncon- 
scious humor, which renders them highly entertaining; in 
some of the others we enjoy laughing with the author in- 
stead of at him. 

Diophanes the Chaldaean. — The tale of the false prophet 
simply makes an appeal to one's sense of humor. A mer- 
chant, whose only stock in trade is his nimble wit and 
whose place of business is any street corner, professes to 
be able to foretell fortunate dates for journeys and is pros- 
pering exceedingly. 



A grateful merchant has just received definite informa- 
tion as to exactly the best moment for dispatching a vessel 
laden w^ith rich merchandise and is generously counting 
out a hundred pieces of gold for the seer when the latter, 
feeling his cloak pulled from behind, turns, recognizes an 
old friend, and engages enthusiastically in conversation 
w^ith him. "And tell me," says the friend, "how did your 
journey speed after I left you?" 

The seer, carried away by the memories of his terrible 
misfortunes, overwhelms his friend with a sad tale of ship- 
wreck and loss of property, which left him only his life to 
be grateful for. Loud and mocking laughter from the 
throng about causes him to turn in time to see his disillu- 
sioned patron hurriedly seizing his gold and departing. 

The Lost Slippers. — The story of Senator Barbarus in 
this tale, his jealousy of his beautiful wife and the pleasant 
denouement owing to the quick wit of her lover, empha- 
sizes this gentleman's cleverness to such an extent that 
jealousy, intrigue, and unfaithfulness become minor inci- 
dents of the history. 

That his beautiful wife may not even be looked upon 
by any one other than himself is the chief desire of Senator 
Barbarus. During a necessary absence he confides her to 
the care of a confidential slave, who is strictly warned not 
to lose sight of her, indeed, not to loose his grasp of her 
garment in his master's absence. 

A young man who has heard rumors of the lady's 
beauty offers the slave a large sum of money for himself 
and another for his mistress if she consents to receive him 
as a lover during her husband's absence. Cupidity triumphs 

i 126 ^ 


over the virtue of both slave and lady. The lover is ad- 
mitted and the doors barred, but soon the master unex- 
pectedly returns. The lover hastily escapes by a back door; 
the master comes in, somewhat suspicious because of the 
locked door and the delay. In the morning he sees a pair 
of slippers in his w^ife's room. He orders the slave bound 
and is leading him to the torture when the lover, seeing the 
sad procession, hurls himself upon the bound slave, beating 
him and demanding his slippers, which he says the slave 
stole at the baths the day before. 

The senator, with the readiness to be convinced of the 
falsity of his suspicions that goes far toward making such 
a tale move smoothly, has the slave unbound, bids him 
return the slippers, and feels gratitude toward the young 
man who has saved him from illtreating a faithful servant. 

The Robber's Tales. — The humor of the robber's tales, 
the three told by a member of the band, seems to lie mainly 
in one's constant and somewhat ludicrous feeling of sur- 
prise at being given the robber's point of view in sharp 
contrast to the conventional attitude of the possessor of 
portable property. 

The first tale is of the bravery and death of Lamachus. 
The robbers, approaching Thebes, inquired as to the finan- 
cial rating of the inhabitants and decided to turn their at- 
tention to a certain miser. 

In the dead of night the leader approached the humble 
dwelHng. He put his hand through the orifice intended for 
the insertion of the key, meaning to raise the bars. We are 
told that he did this "in all the confidence of his tried 
valor." But the miser, "that vilest of all two-footed things," 


was ready for him. In a silence that seemed to the narrator 
inexcusably deceitful, he crept to the door and drove a spike 
through the hand of the brave Lamachus, pinning him to 
the door. Then the miser, ascending to the roof, called 
upon his neighbors for aid. 

It is significant that he did not call for aid against the 
robbers, but asked them to aid him in putting out a sudden 
fire that had started in his house and w^ould likely threaten 
theirs. This appeal to self-interest was successful. As the 
neighbors gathered, the robbers were in a quandary. They 
must decide between saving themselves and deserting their 
comrade. Finally they struck off the arm at the shoulder 
and took with them all that was left of their brave comrade. 

It is explained that the wound was swathed in cloths 
"lest the blood might betray our course." However, Lama- 
chus could not keep up. He begged his comrades to kill 
him. When no one of them would do this, he kissed his 
sword again and again and drove it into his breast with the 
hand that was left him. They committed his body to the 
sea "and there lies our brave Lamachus with a whole ele- 
ment for his grave." 

The next of the robber band to lose his life seems to have 
been at fault in two respects. He was careless, for his com- 
rade tells us that upon breaking into an old woman's cot- 
tage, he should have strangled her. He neglected this 
precaution and proceeded to throw her belongings out of 
the window to the other members of the band who waited 

When everything was gone except the coverlet that en- 
wrapped the old woman sleeping all this time, the robber 



fell a victim to his second failing. He was too greedy, for 
he felt that he must have the coverlet. So he threw the 
occupant of the bed upon the floor. The "wicked old 
woman" promptly asked him why he was presenting all 
her belongings to her rich neighbors, whose house the win- 
dow overlooked. 

Alcimus was of so simple a mind that he was deceived 
by the cunning of this wily speech. He leaned out of the 
window; the aged sinner gave him a push, and he fell upon 
a stone and broke and shattered the framework of his ribs. 
He lived long enough to tell his comrades what had hap- 
pened. Then he gave up the ghost and they buried him 
as they had Lamachus. 

We cannot but feel that the narrator has cleverly led up 
to a climax, for the third tale is much more elaborate than 
the other two. We are presented with a picture of a show 
of gladiators to be given by Demochares of Plataea and 
hardly enough can be said in praise of his gentle birth, his 
great generosity, and his wealth. 

He had collected skilled gladiators, experienced hunts- 
men, and criminals guilty of horrible crimes, these last to 
be used as a feast for the wild beasts. A wonderful con- 
trivance of towers built of wood, resembling a house on 
wheels and decorated with paintings, was used as an orna- 
mental cage for wild beasts. Here follows a description of 
the animals. We learn that Demochares "had been at 
great pains to procure these noble sepulchers for con- 
demned felons, importing them even from foreign lands." 
But he specialized in bears, and bears did not thrive. In 
every open space of the town they lay dying in agony. In 


spite of the fact that the bears succumbed to a pestilence, 
the poor people hastened to partake of these banquets 
spread thus freely for them. 

And now the stage being set, the actors appear. Two of 
the robbers conceive a brilliant plan for making some of the 
wealth of the good Demochares their own. Carrying the 
carcass of a very large bear to their abode, they skin it 
carefully, leaving the head and claws entire. While the 
skin dries, they enjoy a diet of the flesh and perfect their 
plan. Some one very brave and strong is to hide himself 
in the skin and assume the appearance of a bear. He is to 
be introduced into the house of Demochares, and in the 
dead of the night he is to admit his comrades. There are 
many volunteers, but Thrasyllus is chosen. Sewn into the 
skin, his head pushed into the cavity of the mouth, and 
holes pierced in the eyes and nostrils that he may not be 
suffocated, he is placed, now a "perfect" beast, in a cage. 

And now the subtlety of the plot becomes evident. The 
robbers learning of a friend of Demochares, a hunter, forge 
a letter from him in which he begs Demochares to accept 
the first fruits of a hunting trip, the bear. The recipient, 
delighted, gives orders to place the new bear with the 
others. But when he is reminded by the robbers that the 
other bears are ill and that the new bear will be better out 
of the sun for a time, preferably in his house, Demochares, 
with a commendable readiness to act upon a suggestion, 
promptly has the bear placed in the house. 

Everything seems propitious. The robbers strolling into 
the country find an ancient tomb; wrenching the tops from 
the coffins, they prepare to use them as a repository for the 

i 130 y 


rich booty they anticipate. Coming at the appointed time, 
they find that Thrasyllus has done his part; the guards are 
dead and the doors open. 

According to their plan, the robbers, with as much treas- 
ure as they can carry, hasten to the tomb to deposit it, 
leaving only one man on guard, for they argue that any 
one who might awaken and see the fierce bear roaming 
about would hasten to barricade himself in his own apart- 
ment. A slave does awake, but does not react as expected. 
He runs away indeed, but only to alarm the household. 
A mob of men gathers, every one armed. Shaggy dogs are 
there. The narrator, hiding behind a door, witnesses the 
thrilling conflict. Thrasyllus never for one moment forgets 
his character. He fights like a wild beast. The description 
of his brave struggle is harrowing. "Mangled by hounds' 
teeth and maimed by steel, yet he roared and bellowed con- 
tinually with the voice of a wild beast; he endured his suf- 
ferings with noble constancy, and though he yielded up his 
life to fate, he made fame his own forever." 

The Three Brothers, — A gloomy recital of murder and 
suicide is the tale of the three brothers. These young men, 
sons of a wealthy farmer, hasten to the support of a poor 
friend who is in danger of being deprived of his small 
property by a rich tyrant. The oppressor, reminded by the 
youngest of the brothers that the law is no respecter of per- 
sons and will protect the poor against the brutality of the 
rich, becomes so angry that he looses against the poor man 
and his friends a number of great savage dogs. 

One brother is pulled down and killed, in spite of the 
fact that the others hasten to his rescue. After the second 


brother is slain by a spear, the third, feigning to be 
wounded, avenges his brothers by killing the tyrant and 
then, before he can be taken by the slaves who rush upon 
him, ends his own life. This is the most depressing of all 
the stories. 

Eaten Alive. — Another, hardly less dark in hue, is that 
of the slave who was devoured by ants. A certain slave, 
who had entire charge of his master's household, loved 
a free woman belonging to a neighboring family. His wife, 
a slave of the same household as himself, was so angered 
because of his unfaithfulness to her that she burned all his 
account books and indeed all the contents of the house. 
Then she hanged herself and her child. 

The master, to punish a slave whose conduct had im- 
pelled his wife to this action, had him stripped and smeared 
all over with honey. Then he was bound to a hollow fig 
tree that was infested with ants. Attracted by the smell of 
the honey, they fastened upon the body of the slave in 
swarms. The man's flesh was stripped from his bones, 
which were left gleaming white on the tree. 

In two of the stories under discussion, the witch motif is 
brought out most prominendy. While the superstructure 
of the first tale rests upon the scorned affection and that of 
the second upon the illicit love of the respective heroines, 
both stories impress us principally because of the gruesome 
details, such as the lopping off of noses and ears, the tear- 
ing out of hearts, and the changing of shape, which are 
characteristic of the true witch tale. 

The Tale of Aristomenes, the Commercial Traveler. — 
With a minuteness of detail that goes far to make one feet 

\ 132 y 


that all that follows is authentic, Aristomenes, a commer- 
cial traveler, tells of his arrival in Hypata, how^ his business 
there had sped, how, wearied, he had gone to the baths 
"just as the evening star was rising." And how surprised 
he had been at the sight of his friend Socrates clad only in 
filthy rags. 

When he had given Socrates all the home news and had 
fed and clothed him, he was rewarded for his kindness by 
the history of all that had befallen his friend. Socrates on 
his way home from Macedonia, whither he had gone on 
business, planned to stop at Larissa to witness a show of 
gladiators, when he was attacked by robbers and lost every- 
thing that he possessed. 

Upon arriving at an inn, he was fed, comforted, and ac- 
cepted as a lover by the landlady, whose name was Meroe. 
She took all his earnings, even all the clothes the robbers 
had left him; but when Aristomenes characterized her and 
her conduct in an uncomplimentary manner, poor Socrates 
hastened to exclaim, "Not a word against that divine 
woman, lest the recklessness of your speech do you a hurt! " 

Thereupon Socrates described the power of Meroe. "She 
can call down the sky, hang earth in heaven, freeze foun- 
tains, melt mountains, raise the spirits of the dead, send 
gods to hell, put out the stars, and give light to Tartarus 

"I beseech you," said Aristomenes not unreasonably, 
"clear away your tragic curtain, roll up your drop scene, 
and speak in ordinary language." Thus besought, Socrates 
told of the horrors wrought by Meroe and of the dread 
punishment meted out to any who tried to oppose her. 

^ 133 f 


Much terrified, Aristomenes felt that the witch probably 
already knew all that they had been saying. He counseled 
flight at dawn, but found that Socrates, who was very tired 
and had drunk much wine, was already asleep. So Aris- 
tomenes made everything as secure as possible, placing his 
truckle against the door. 

He was barely asleep when the hinges were broken, the 
doors battered to the ground, and his bed overturned. Fall- 
ing to the ground, he was shielded by the bed and saw two 
women enter. One carried a bright lantern, the other a 
sponge and naked sword. Meroe, standing by Socrates' bed, 
said to her companion, "This, sister Panthia, is my sweet 
Endymion, my Ganymede, who has made light of my 
love, and, not content with slandering me, he now seeks 
to fly from me, while I, like a second Calypso deserted 
by the wily Ulysses, must bewail my loneliness forever." 
She also made it quite clear to Aristomenes that she knew 
of his presence and of the fact that he had proposed the 

As she talked she became enraged and proposed killing 
him at once, but the "good Panthia" expressed a preference 
for tearing Socrates limb from limb, and Meroe finally de- 
cided that Aristomenes might live so that there would be 
some one to bury Socrates. Plunging her dagger into Soc- 
rates' throat, she caught the blood in a bladder, then thrust 
her hand into the wound and dragged forth his heart. 

All the time Socrates continued to utter a shriek that 
gurgled indistinctly through the wound. The good Panthia 
used her sponge to "block the wound where it gaped 
widest," but she adjured it to have. a care lest, "child of the 

4 134 f 


sea, thou cross running water." Then the witches departed 
and the doors rose up and resumed their former position 
and became bolted and barred. 

Aristomenes for the second time decided to fly. The 
porter refused to open the door of the inn and became un- 
pleasantly personal in his inquiries as to the safety of Soc- 

With no course left to him but to return to the scene of 
the murder, Aristomenes decided to end his life. Taking 
the rope from the truckle bed, he cast one end over a beam 
and made the other into a noose. Then he climbed upon 
the bed to launch himself to destruction, but as he pushed 
away the support, the rope broke and he fell upon Socrates. 
They rolled together to the floor. Just then the porter burst 
into the room, loudly demanding the man who had been in 
such a hurry to depart. Socrates arose. He complained of 
the noise that had broken in upon his delightful sleep. 
Aristomenes was so overjoyed to find Socrates alive and to 
know that he could not now be accused of murder that he 
embraced and kissed his friend, much to the indignation 
of the latter. 

Aristomenes urged that they start at once. Once well on 
the way, he looked curiously at Socrates. No wound, no 
sponge. He told himself that he had taken too much wine 
and confided to Socrates that he had passed a dreadful 
night filled with horrid dreams. Socrates said that he too 
had a dream in which he thought that his throat was cut. 
He added that he was even then faint and needed food to 
restore his strength. So they sat under a tree to eat their 
breakfast and Socrates became thinner and thinner while 



his face grew yellow and his strength failed fast. Then he 
became very thirsty and went to a near-by stream to drink. 
But as he knelt "a wound gaped wide and deep in his 
throat," a sponge dropped out, and the body would have 
fallen into the stream had not Aristomenes dragged it to 
the top of the bank. After bewailing his comrade he laid 
him in the shallow grave predicted by Meroe. 

Telyphron's Tale of the Witches. — The second witch 
tale is of a much more complicated nature. The favorite 
feature of the supernatural is introduced, and the climax is 
as great a surprise to the reader as it was to the narrator 
of the tale. 

Telyphron, a young man, tells us of his adventures. 
Reaching Larissa in the course of his travels, he found him- 
self in pressing need of money. Hearing a crier offering 
his own price to anyone who would watch a corpse, he 
somewhat flippantly asked a passerby if the corpses were in 
the habit of running away. The man rebuked Telyphron, 
reminding him that he was young and a stranger sojourn- 
ing in the place peculiarly known as the home of witches. 
The witches, he said, lay in wait to mutilate the faces of the 
dead in order to procure ingredients for their magic charms. 
If a watcher allowed the face of a corpse to be mutilated, 
he must allow portions to be cut from his own face to re- 
place those taken. 

Undismayed, Telyphron offered his services to the crier, 
who at once led him to the beautiful lady whose husband 
was dead. In the presence of seven witnesses the widow 
made an inventory of the features and their condition at 
the time of Telyphron's arrival. Telyphron locked the door 


and, much exhausted, went to sleep soon after he had 
driven away a weasel that had approached and looked 
fixedly at him. 

He did not awaken until dawn, when, filled with fear 
lest the corpse had been mutilated, he rushed to look at it 
and found that it was unimpaired. When the widow en- 
tered with her witnesses she was overjoyed, ordered the 
watcher paid, and said that she should count him among 
her friends in the future. Telyphron's reply to the effect 
that she might count upon him whenever she had need of 
his services was considered of such ill omen that the lady's 
servants set upon him, beat and bruised him, and tore his 

As he was recovering from this hard treatment, the 
funeral procession of the young man passed through the 
market place. An old man, weeping and tearing his hair, 
threw his arms about the bier and accused the widow of the 
dead man of having murdered him that she might have 
his money and please her lover. The widow denied her 
guilt, appealing with tears to all the gods of heaven. 

Thereupon the old man produced an Egyptian prophet, 
who had agreed to recall the dead man to life for a brief 
space. After an impressive ceremonial, the corpse sat up, 
begging to be allowed to rest. But the prophet angrily com- 
manded him to throw light upon the mystery of his death. 
Thereupon the dead man wearily said that his wife had 
poisoned him that she might give herself to her lover. 
There ensued an argument between the wife, who main- 
tained her innocence, and the corpse, and each had sup- 
porters in the throng about. 



Finally, to prove his truthfulness, the corpse promised to 
tell something that he alone knew. He said that the 
witches had thrown a pall over the watcher of the night 
before. Then they had repeatedly called the name of the 
corpse until he felt that he must rise and go to them. 
Strange to relate, his name and that of the watcher were 
identical, and it was the latter who finally arose and went 
to the door. There, reaching through the chink of the 
door, the witches had lopped o£F the nose and ears of the 
young man, and, in order that he might not discover his 
loss, had put features made of wax in place of those they 
had taken. Upon hearing this astounding statement, Tely- 
phron put his hands to his ears and they dropped off; to 
his nose, and it fell off. He had no heart to return to his 
home and was from then an exile. 

The Jealous Wife, — Of all these stories, none of which is 
poor in plot, the tale of the woman who murdered her 
husband's sister is most notable because of its wealth in this 

A woman, whose husband is about to start on a journey, 
is told by him that if their child soon to be born is a girl, 
it must be put to death. When the girl baby is born, the 
mother cannot bear to have it killed. She places it in the 
family of a neighbor to be reared. 

When the girl has grown to a marriageable age, the fact 
that she can give her daughter no dowry so oppresses the 
mother that she confides the whole story to her son. He 
promptly agrees to take the girl into his family, provide 
her with a dowry, and marry her to one of his own dear 

-( 138 )- 


It is necessary to conceal the identity of the girl, and his 
wife becomes jealous of her. Going into the country, she 
sends a faithful slave with a message to the girl, requesting 
her to come unattended to the country house. Since her 
brother's signet ring is shown her when the message is 
delivered, the girl, who is devoted to her brother, has no 
hesitation in obeying his command. The jealous wife 
springs upon her from ambush, illtreats and wounds her, 
and finally, in spite of the fact that the girl discloses the 
true relationship between herself and her assailant's hus- 
band, murders her in a manner too horrible to relate. 

The husband and the young girl's fiance bury her, and 
the former is so affected by grief that he becomes ill. The 
wife goes to a physician and offers him a large sum of 
money if he will sell her some poison. In the presence of 
the household the physician offers the sick man the cup. 
To his horror the wife demands that he take part of the 
draught as proof that he has no intention of poisoning her 
husband. The physician, speechless before the audacity of 
this abandoned woman, drinks part of the poison, offering 
the remainder to the sick man, who takes it readily. The 
wife manages to keep the physician in the house so long 
that he cannot save his life by an antidote. He lives long 
enough, however, to tell his wife what has happened and 
to bid her collect the reward promised him. 

When the physician's widow asks for the money, it is 
promised her at once and she is asked if she cannot find 
a little more of the same potion. Overjoyed at the promise 
of payment, she brings the whole casket. With this power 
for evil in her hands, the wicked woman decides to murder 


her little daughter, who will otherwise inherit her father's 
property. Arranging a luncheon party, she poisons not only 
her daughter, but the physician's widow as well. The child 
dies at once, but the older victim lives long enough to tell 
the governor about the crimes, and their perpetrator is sen- 
tenced to be thrown to the wild beasts. 

In addition to the fact that this somewhat tiresome tale 
has such an involved plot, one notices the effect upon the 
narrator as the story proceeds and the full enormity of the 
wickedness of the principal character affects his judgment. 
When the physician is applied to for the poison, we are told 
that he is notorious for his perfidious villainies; when, 
tricked by the woman to whom he has sold the poison, he 
dies, he is that "most admirable physician." 

The Enamoured Stepmother. — Only second to the tale 
just told, in the depth of the wickedness of its heroine, is 
that of the stepmother who loved her husband's son. If 
the author had been upholding the truth of the assertion 
that "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," he could 
have brought forward no more convincing incidents. 

The stepmother is beautiful and the mother of a son, but 
her passion for her stepson is so great that she is ill because 
of it. The stepson is pictured as a model youth devoted to 
his books. When his stepmother declares her passion, he 
promptly suggests that they must say nothing more of it 
until his father goes away. It is his intention to go away 
himself to escape the unwelcome advances of his father's 
wife, but before he can do so his father goes upon a long 
journey. When the stepmother is taught, by the numerous 
excuses returned in answer to her various messages that her 
affection is unwelcome, her love turns to bitterest hate. 

-{ 140 h 


The usual faithful slave procures the usual poison to 
administer to the offender, but it is taken by the younger 
son, who dies. The father, hastily summoned, is told a hor- 
rible tale of the depravity of his elder son. Because his step- 
mother repelled his advances, he has poisoned her son in 
revenge and now plots to destroy her because she has de- 
tected his guilt. Beside himself with grief, the poor father 
buries his dead son; then he rushes into the market place, 
demanding the punishment of the living one. 

The trial is held. The stepmother's faithful slave testifies 
that the young man, angered because of his stepmother's 
obduracy, had procured poison, which he commanded the 
slave to give to the little brother; that he offered a rich re- 
ward and threatened death if his command were not 
obeyed. That finally he had administered the potion with 
his own hand, fearful lest the slave should not do so. The 
senators, all believing in the guilt of the accused, are about 
to condemn him to death, when the most respectfed of 
them, putting his hand over the mouth of the vase into 
which the voting pebbles were to be cast, tells a strange 

The slave had applied to him for a swift poison for 
which he offered to pay a large sum. He had given the 
potion, but as his suspicions had been aroused, he had made 
an excuse by which he had managed to have the slave's 
seal affixed to the bag of coins paid him. Although the 
seal affixed to the bag of coins proves to be the same as that 
on the slave's ring, the latter still maintains the truth of his 

Then the physician says that the drug that he gave to 
the slave was mandrake, which does not kill but induces 

i 141 Y 


a deep sleep. If it has been administered to the boy, he will 
now be on the point of awakening. They go to the tomb 
and find the boy just emerging from the trance. The slave 
is sentenced to be crucified; the stepmother is banished for 
life; the father who had believed himself bereft of both 
sons is now happy in their possession. 

The Tragedy of Tlepolemus and Charite. — The story of 
Tlepolemus and Charite, their love for each other and their 
death, and of the villain of the piece, Thrasyllus, is the most 
symmetrically developed of all the tales we are to consider. 

Charite, beautiful and charming, after being sought in 
marriage by many suitors, is married to Tlepolemus. Thra- 
syllus, violently in love with her, has been rejected by her 
parents because of his dissipated life and evil associates. 
His passion for the bride of Tlepolemus does not wane, and 
he ingratiates himself with the wedded pair and becomes 
an intimate of the husband. 

Together they go to hunt roe deer, for Charite fears some 
injury to her husband if he seek fiercer game. Tlepolemus 
and Thrasyllus are mounted, their servants on foot. Sud- 
denly a wild boar springs from the forest. "With mighty 
muscles standing out, with bristling hair rising along his 
spine, he rushes out, gnashing his teeth in his rage, foaming 
at the mouth, while his eyes seem to flash forth flame." 
Upon the proposal of Thrasyllus, the friends start in pur- 
suit of the boar. It turns upon Tlepolemus and he, hard 
pressed, calls to his friend for aid. The servants have 
already run away. Thrasyllus attacks instead of aiding 
Tlepolemus and maims his horse. Fearful lest the tusks of 

A 142 y 


the furious boar may not inflict fatal wounds, he adds sev- 
eral thrusts of his spear. 

When Charite learns of the death of her husband, she 
rushes wildly through the street to throw herself upon his 
body, and is only prevented by force from joining him in 
death. It is Thrasyllus who later rouses her to take some 
interest in life. And when she seems reconciled to Ufe he 
urges his proposals upon her, this time with the consent of 
her parents. 

And now the shade of Tlepolemus appears to Charite in 
her sleep and tells her of the guilt of Thrasyllus. Her 
whole energy seems now to be directed to revenge. She 
conceals her loathing of her wicked suitor and gives hope- 
ful promises for the future. And when he urges her to 
accept him at once as her lover, she apparently yields, only 
stipulating that he come secretly, since her husband's death 
is so recent. 

On his arrival, a servant plies him with drugged wine. 
When he is unconscious, Charite blinds him by plunging 
through his eyes again and again a pin from her hair. 
Then, in spite of those who would have restrained her, 
Charite kills herself at her husband's tomb and Thrasyllus, 
awaking to the horror of all that he has done, has himself 
locked in the tomb of those he has so wronged and dies of 

The Tale of the Tub and The Fuller's Wife.— The "Tale 
of the Tub" and the story of "The Fuller's Wife" serve to 
bring into prominence that element of lubricity that is rec- 
ognized as one of the characteristics of the early Milesian 

^ 143 ^ . 


tale. The "Tale of the Tub" is well known, as Boccaccio 
has used it in his Decameron. "The Fuller's Wife" is an 
involved tale of intrigue, which also appears in the De- 

Cupid and Psyche. — The far-famed tale of "Cupid and 
Psyche" is one of the best-known tales of antiquity. It has 
inspired many a work of art, and if known to comparatively 
few in the original, the exquisite translation of it in Walter 
Pater's Marius the Epicurean, La Fontaine's version, and 
perhaps above all, for English readers, the poetical render- 
ing by William Morris in the Earthly Paradise have made 
it well known in modern times. It is undoubtedly folklore 
in origin but has been worked over into the form of an 
erotic romance with a very slight element of allegory. 

With the possible exception of the tale of "Diophanes, 
the Chaldaean," these are tales of action. One readily sees 
the tremendous possibilities open to a narrator of vivid 
imagination. When Socrates tremblingly tells of the dread 
deeds of the witch in punishing her enemies, the reader is 
tempted to add something of his own, so stimulated are his 
inventive powers. 

The supernatural element is a favorite and striking fea- 
ture, and the shades have as much individuality as their 
prototypes. At times the appearance of the shade is neces- 
sary, as in the second witch's tale. In the instance cited, 
the husband's spirit came unwillingly, but, having come, 
argued vigorously with the wife who had poisoned him, 
and then and there to prove his veracity furnished the point 
of the whole tale by disclosing what the witch had done to 
Telyphron. In striking contrast, the shade of Tlepolemus 

i 144 Y 


need not have come at all, for Charite must already have 
suspected what he came to disclose. But he was a gende, 
affectionate, resigned spirit and a decided aid in adding to 
the thrill that these tales could not have failed to induce. 

In the story of "The Lost Slippers," the central figure is, 
rather surprisingly, the lady's lover. His ready wit and 
kind heart, as shown in saving a slave from torture, make 
him a personality, a rare thing in the stories under discus- 
sion, in which characterization is noticeably absent. An- 
other personality is Charite, a well-delineated character; to 
learn that she is a virtuous wife is something of a relief 
after one has read so many accounts of readily accepted 
lovers and deceived husbands. 

With very few exceptions we are shown puppets whose 
strings are pulled by the author. As a result there is mani- 
fest a striking readiness to act in a way to promote the plot. 
And such a wealth of plot! The villains are nearly all femi- 
nine and are painted as absolutely unscrupulous. Confiden- 
tial slaves abound who are ever ready to plan murders and 
to bring necessary potions from unscrupulous physicians. 

In these days of psychological studies the very objectivity 
of these always simple, though involved, tales is somewhat 
restful. One can feel sure that the person who is to be de- 
ceived will yield readily to the most transparent attempt to 
hoodwink him; that the good will ultimately triumph in 
almost every case; that punishments will be bloodcurdling 
in their cruelty; that ghosts will walk; and that, while rob- 
bers nearly always die, yet undying fame is theirs forever. 
We gain, too, an interesting picture of the time. In those 
days in Thessaly, the land of magic, where wild beasts, 



robbers, inky blackness, and every kind of danger threat- 
ened from without, these melodramatic tales told in way- 
side inns by commercial travelers, by servants, and some- 
times even by one of the leading characters, could rarely 
fail to produce the most telling effect. 


* The most complete account of this obscure type may be found in 
Philologus LXVI, Zu Milesiaca des Aristides. The conclusions there de- 
duced differ somewhat from those suggested in this article. 

^ Sybaritic tales are mentioned by Aelian in his Historiae Variae, XIV, 
20. The story he cites, mildly facetious in character, is the sole extant 

^ Notes prefixed to the sketches of Parthenius state that they were de- 
rived from collections called Troica, Palleniaca, Naxiaca, Sicelica, Bithynica, 
as well as Milesiaca. See, however, what is said concerning local histories 
on page 122. For this type of title as applied to romances, compare the 
titles of some of the full-length Greek romances of a later period, the 
Babylonica of lamblichus, the scene of which is laid in Babylonia; the 
Aethiopica of Heliodorus; the Cyprica of Xenophon of Cyprus and the 
Ephesiaca of Xenophon of Ephesus. 

*But see Rohde, Der griechische Roman, p. 587. 

'A suggestion somewhat similar is made by Purser in the excursus on 
the Milesian tale in his excellent edition of Cupid and Psyche. 

*The third edition (1914) of Rohde's work cited above contains a 
resume by Schmid of the latest discoveries and theories in regard to the 
Greek romances. The most illuminating work, however, on the Greek 
novel is the extensive study that forms the introduction to Calderini's 
translation, Le avventure di Cherea e Calliroe, Turin, 1913. 

^Dunlop's History of Fiction (revised by Wilson), Vol. 1, chap, i, p. 11. 

* Griechische Liter aturgeschichte (4th revised ed.), p. 846. 
'Plutarch, Lije of Crassus, p. 32. 

^" Rohde (Rhein. Mus. LVIII, 128) understands secum to refer to 
crimina and the phrase to mean "joined together the trifling Milesian 

^^ There are preserved of this translation nine short fragments. Of these 
only numbers 1, 2, and 9 are suggestive of the character of the tales: 

(1) Islisi comminus excidisset, quanti dantur? tanti inquit Olympias; 
simul hoc dicens suavium dedit, indicating a love tale. 

(2) "Proin dato aliquid quod domi habebis," inquit, "quod tibi nan 
magni stabit," suggestive of the wheedling words of a courtesan. 

(9) Indicative of their lewdness. Peter, Pr. Hist. Rom. (2d ed.), I, 297. 

i 146 ^ 


" Vertit Artstiden Sisenna nee obfuit Hit. 
Historiae turpes inseruisse ioeos. — Trist. II, 443. 

Rohde (Rhein. Mus. XL VIII, 128) understands historiae to mean Sisen- 
na's activity as an historian. Our interpretation is that of Heinsius and 
supports our understanding of the phrase secutn in the couplet previously 

" Histoire du Roman dans I'Antiquite. 

" Vogt, Jahrb. f. Phil. SuppL, XXXVII, 699. For the general subject of 
local histories see Christ, op. cit., p. 575. Cf. also Rohde (3d ed.), Schmid's 
appendix, p. 617. 

" For the fragments of Aristides consult Miiller, Hist. Graec, IV, 320 ff. 
Our argument presumes that the Aristides who wrote the Milesiaca and 
he who wrote the historical works are one and the same individual. 

" For a convincing refutation of the theory that the Milesiaca was a full- 
length novel rather than a collection of short stories, consult Rohde, "Zum 
griechischen Roman," Rhein. Mus., XL VIII, UOff. 

^^ Lucian, Amores I. 

"Peter, Scriptores Hist. Aug., Vol. I, Clodius Albinus, XII, 12, maior 
juit dolor quod ilium pro litterato laudandum plerique duxistis, cum Hie 
neniis quibusdam anilibus occupatus inter Melesias Punicas Apulei sui et 
ludicra litteraria consenesceret. 

^^ In chapter ii of the same work we learn that Albinus' interest in 
Milesian tales was not confined to reading them: Milesias nonnulli eiusdem 
esse dicunt, quarum jama non ignobilis habetur quamvis mediocriter 
scriptae sunt. 

^°On the folklore element in this tale consult Friedlander, Roman Life 
and Manners under the Early Empire, IV, 88-123, also Reitzenstein's bril- 
liant study. Das Mdrchen von Amor und Psyche bei Apuleius. J. E. Schroe- 
der's De amoris et Psyches Fabella Apuleiana nova quadam ratione 
explicata is an application of Freud's sex obsession theory to the tale. 

^^ Apul. Met. IV, 33, propter Milesiae conditorem. Some suppose that 
the word Milesiae refers to the work as a whole. It seems more natural to 
understand it as referring to the particular tale then being told. This 
interpretation is at least supported by the fact that the shrine of Apollo 
near Miletus has been mentioned just previously in connection with this 
story. It is also significant that the singular, Milesia, is used in this con- 
nection, while the plural is used in the passage cited from the life of 

^Muller, Frag. Hist. Graec, p. 320. 

^' Apul. Met. I, \, At ego tibi sermone isto Milesio varias fabulas con- 
seram. These words, together with the evidence cited in connection with 
the story of Cupid and Psyche and with that of the passage from the life 
of Albinus, seem to prove the point conclusively. 




THE following striking statement of Sir Henry Maine 
stands as a text to Book I of Gomperz' Greef^ Thinn- 
ers: "To one small people it was given to create the prin- 
ciple of progress. That people was the Greek. Except the 
blind forces of nature, nothing moves in this world which 
is not Greek in its origin." The more one studies and 
thinks with this text in mind the greater the marvel grows, 
for the Greek influence really does extend into fields which, 
at first thought, it would not seem to have reached. Indeed, 
in the course of these pages it will be apparent that, though 
Greece of course had nothing to do with the movement of 
the blind forces of nature, she had a great deal to do with 
the explanation of their causes. 

The theories of the early Greek philosophers as to the 
basis of the physical universe, important as they are in the 
history of human thought, possess at the present time for 
the most part merely an antiquarian interest. There is, 
however, one rather notable exception, the Greek atomic 
theory. This theory is a most striking exemplification of 
the intuitive faculty of the Greek mind. It was not the 
result of experiment or observation or conclusions drawn 
therefrom, but the result of tiie most abstract metaphysical 
concepts, and yet in its main outline the hypothesis is indis- 

i 148 y 


pensable to science at the present time. Our colleagues in 
physics will tell us that recent discoveries with regard to 
radio-active elements, far from overthrowing the atomic 
theory, have but made its acceptance the more necessary. 

Modern physics postulates that all substances, solids as 
well as liquids and gases, are composed of minute particles 
called molecules and that these molecules are in very rapid 
motion. When the term "molecule" is used exactly, it will 
indicate the smallest portion of matter that retains its 
identity as a particular substance. Any further division 
would destroy the identity of the substance and reduce it 
to the atom. In the case of the chemical elements the atom 
and the molecule may be identical. 

Recent investigations and discoveries have proved that 
enormous quantities of energy are locked up in the atoms 
of all substances. One widely accepted theory would make 
the atom consist of a nucleus of positive charges of elec- 
tricity around which the negative electrons rotate rapidly. 
The physicist has before him the fascinating problem of 
endeavoring to unlock this store of atomic energy in order 
to turn it to the uses of man. The atom, therefore, is a live 
and vital thing, and it may be of some interest to consider 
the ancient speculations with regard to its nature and be- 

We shall omit a discussion of the early Greek atomists 
before Epicurus and merely remark by way of preface that 
Leucippus, the father of atomists, owed much to the specu- 
lations of the Eleatic school, and that Democritus, the 
immediate precursor of Epicurus, did most for the develop- 
ment of that theory which Epicurus somewhat modified 

i 149}- 


and adopted as the physical basis of his system of philoso- 
phy. We proceed directly to a consideration of this theory 
as taught by Epicurus and transmitted to us by Lucretius. 

It is true that Lucretius did not, so far as we know, make 
a single contribution to the doctrine as formulated by 
Epicurus, but our debt to him is great because our under- 
standing of the theory is due almost exclusively to his clear 
and striking exposition. How great this debt is, may be 
inferred by a comparison of the bare facts of the physics of 
the system, as outlined by Epicurus himself in a letter pre- 
served by Diogenes Laertius, with the vivid account of 

We first give a resume^ of the theory and then consider 
how this tallies with known facts and theories at the 
present time. 

There must be, argued Epicurus, as the basis of all exist- 
ing things, an unchanging and everlasting substance. This 
substance Epicurus calls atoms. Nothing is ever destroyed, 
but things are resolved into their primal atoms. The sum 
total of matter in the universe remains constant. Atoms 
are invisible; they never have been and never can be seen. 
Objects are formed by a combination of atoms and have in 
them void also, the second element in nature. Everything 
in nature may be reduced to these two terms, body and 
void, that in which body moves. Neither sense nor reason 
can grasp any third class. All qualities are either insepar- 
able properties or are accidents of matter or void. Time 
exists not by itself; from the actions that go on, follows the 
feeling of past, present, and future. The deeds done at the 

* Munro's outline is followed for the most part. 


siege of Troy, for example, did not exist by themselves, but 
were mere accidents of the men there or the places there. 
Atoms are absolutely solid, having no mixture of void 
in them. As there is no object in nature perfectly solid, 
reason alone assigns this characteristic to atoms. First be- 
ginnings are of solid singleness — solid a sitnplicitate, as 
Lucretius puts it — that is, w^ith no mixture of void and 
absolutely indivisible. Postulate solid atoms, and soft 
bodies may be explained by the introduction of void into 
their composition. With soft atoms the existence of hard 
things cannot be understood. The absolutely solid and in- 
divisible atoms have, nevertheless, theoretical parts, minimae 
partes — "least parts," they are called. These parts have no 
existence apart from the atom. The atom, therefore, has 
not been formed from a union of these parts, but this union 
has existed in it unchanged from eternity. The universe is 
absolutely limitless; this being so, space and void are in- 
finite. So, too, the sum of things and matter is infinite; for 
space being infinite, if matter w^ere finite, nothing in being 
could exist a moment, or rather, nothing could ever have 
been brought into a state of existence, for it is only by an 
infinite supply of matter that this earth and heaven can be 
maintained. As mere blind chance, not Providence, has 
arranged out of the atoms this and other w^orlds, these 
atoms never could have thus combined had there not been 
an infinite supply of them. Atoms move ceaselessly 
through void of their own inherent motion or it may be 
after collision with others. Atoms of intricate shape after 
collision may form a close union and help compose hard 
bodies; others rebound to greater intervals and keep oscil- 


lating through these greater intervals and thus form softer 
bodies. Lucretius uses the striking illustration of the motes 
of dust in a sunbeam to illustrate his conception of what 
must be the motion of atoms. Next considering the motes 
of dust as they really are — objects formed by the combina- 
tion of atoms — he argues that the single atoms have com- 
bined into very minute objects to which are imparted the 
inherent motion of the atoms. Then larger combinations 
are formed until we have the visible mote of dust, with mo- 
tion imparted by the atom, rising into the field of percep- 

The motion of atoms is inconceivably swift. The natural, 
original movement of atoms is downward. At quite uncer- 
tain times and places atoms swerve an imperceptible de- 
gree. Were it not for this swerve the continual fall of 
atoms in perpendicular lines through the infinite void 
would result in nothing. As a matter of fact they would 
to all intents and purposes be standing still. The theory of 
swerve is needed to bring them into collision and admit 
the creation of the world. This device is also required to 
break the eternal sequence of cause and effect and admit 
the principle of free will. 

The sum total of the universe was never more nor less 
than it is now, and the motion that atoms now have they 
always have had and always will have. Though atoms are 
in constant motion, yet the whole universe appears to be at 
rest, because the atoms that compose it are far beneath 
the ken of our senses. 

Atoms are of various shapes, and this difference in shape 
is the reason for the variation of individuals of a given 



species. This is also the cause of the difference in volatiUty 
of some substances. Lightning can pass where ordinary 
fire cannot, because its atoms are finer; Hght passes through 
horn but water does not; wine runs easily, oil slowly, 
through a strainer. The difference in the shapes of the 
atoms that compose the various substances is the cause of 
these phenomena. The different sensations are also caused 
by the difference in the shape of the atoms. Honey is 
sweet, wormwood bitter. The former is composed of 
smooth, the latter of jagged, atoms. 

The number of shapes of atoms is finite though very 
great; the number of atoms of each shape infinite. The 
alphabet that we use serves as an illustration. There is 
a definite number of different letters, but an inexhaustible 
supply of any particular letter. 

Atoms have no color and in fact none of the secondary 
qualities, such as heat, cold, sound, flavor, smell. A neutral 
element is needed to form the basis of all created things. 

Atoms are without sensibility. All things that have sense 
come from insensible atoms as a result of the manner in 
which certain atoms of very subtle nature combine and as 
a result of the kind of motion brought about by this combi- 

Since space is unlimited and atoms infinite in number, 
it is not reasonable to suppose that this world is the only 
world, since it has been formed by a chance combination of 
atoms; there are in other parts of space like combinations 
of atoms or other worlds and, what is more, inhabited 

As everything in nature grows by gradual steps, by 

-{ 153 ). 


taking unto itself that which it needs until it reaches the 
acme of its growth, and thereafter begins to wane and 
finally disappears, so, too, this world of ours will dissolve 
into its primal elements and the process of rebuilding will 
begin again and so on ad infinitum. 

The particular application of this theory of atoms that 
we have just sketched contains litde that is true and much 
that is absurd. An examination of the doctrines themselves, 
however, will reveal the somewhat surprising fact that the 
main outUne of this ancient theory of the constitution of 
matter is substantially correct even in the light of the most 
recent experiments. 

The statement that nothing is begotten from nothing and 
that nothing happens without a material cause must be 
accepted as applied to the material world in order that 
scientific knowledge may exist at all. Nothing is ever anni- 
hilated, but is resolved into its constituent parts. This and 
the previous statement affirm the constancy of the total 
quantity of matter — a conception common enough now, 
but one for which antiquity had not yet the support of 
scientific proof. The conclusion, as usual, was reached by 
analogy. There was no proof of the destruction of matter. 
Change, however, is ever before the eyes. What appears to 
be destruction is simply change. 

For the doctrine of void in things two proofs are ad- 
duced. If the universe were packed solid with matter no 
motion would be possible. This is not so, as we might have 
re-entering motion and there need be no vacuum. The 
other proof that the varying density of bodies is only to be 
explained by the admixture of void is the accepted theory 


for ponderable bodies today. Modern physics asserts, how- 
ever, that what Lucretius calls void is filled with an im- 
ponderable substance called ether. Substitute hypothetical 
ether for void, and the ancient deduction as to the density 
of bodies is correct. 

Atoms are hard and they are absolutely solid. This is 
incorrect. Even within our own recollection, however, the 
atom was described as hard, and we well remember pictur- 
ing it to ourselves as a minute white billiard ball. Modern 
physics postulates a soft atom and attributes the hardness 
of things to the rapid motion of the soft atom. 

The reason for the contradictory hypothesis of least parts 
was doubtless due to the fact that size, shape, and weight 
were attributed to atoms. Atoms, therefore, have extension, 
hence parts, and how can that which has parts be indi- 
visible? This theory is of course incorrect. In connection 
with it, however, one naturally thinks of the electrons of 
the modern atom. 

Nothing exists but matter and void. No third element 
can be imagined. It is argued that properties and accidents 
are not entities distinct from matter. This is true, but it 
does not prove that nothing exists but matter and void. 

An attempt is made to show that every fact in the world 
can be explained by the properties of matter and that mat- 
ter possesses very few simple properties. This proposition, 
if restricted to physical facts, is still held as true. 

The contention that there must be some unalterable 
basis of matter, else all things would have been destroyed 
long ago, seems as sound today as it was in the days of 

-( 155 )> 


The proposition that the difference between all bodies is 
accounted for by the different arrangement and motion of 
atoms is sound. That is, matter is conceived as formed by 
atoms that are in constant motion. This idea so contrary 
to the evidence of the senses, upon which Epicureanism 
based all knowledge, is the most striking example of the 
intuitive quality of the Greek mind; for in the light of 
modern investigation it has been proved to be perfectly 

Some writers believe that Lucretius assumes his atoms to 
be elastic though perfectly solid. It is of course impossible 
for perfectly solid bodies to be elastic, hence they could not 
rebound on striking one another. Is it not more reason- 
able to suppose that Lucretius was ignorant of the fact that 
perfectly solid bodies could not rebound? 

The behavior of the ancient atom after collision is quite 
in accord with that of its modern descendant, and a chemist 
or physicist will use terms similar to those of Lucretius in 
speaking of the collision, deflection, and bombardment of 
atoms or molecules. He will also speak just as Lucretius 
does of the oscillation of atoms in more or less dense bodies 
through greater or less intervals. 

Atoms move straight down through void if they do not 
collide. This is incorrect. Lucretius failed to realize that 
there is no up or down in infinite space. He speaks of this 
motion doubtless as relative to the earth. It may be re- 
marked that the difficulty that there is no up or down in 
infinite space seemed to trouble none of the early atomists 
who preceded Epicurus. The modern atom is subjected to 
the influence of the universal law of gravitation and its 



inherent motion will be similar to the motion of a planetary 
system. The tremendous velocity of the Epicurean atom 
receives the support of the exact measurements of the 
velocity of certain atoms by modern physicists. 

The theory of the swerve of atoms has exposed Epicurus 
to much ridicule, both in ancient and in modern times. 
Democritus taught that in their fall through void the 
lighter atoms were overtaken by the heavier and the neces- 
sary collision occurred. Aristotle quite naturally objected 
that such could not be the case, since atoms of whatever 
weight would, in void, fall with the same rapidity. Epi- 
curus, accepting Aristode's objection, formulated the theory 
of the swerve of atoms. This then was a very simple 
method of explaining creation and free will in man. Hav- 
ing ruled out of the universe everything but matter and 
void and yet beHeving in free will, Epicurus boldly en- 
dowed his atom with free will, exercised, it seems to us, 
not constantly but, in Lucretius' words, at quite uncertain 
times. Guyau, the keenest of the interpreters of Epicurean 
ethics, claims that this spontaneity is ever inherent in the 
Epicurean atom. We cannot see that this follows from 
anything that the ancient authorities say of the system. 
Lucretius, in stating that the swerve is so minute that it 
may not be called oblique motion, is following a common 
practice of materialists in making a difficulty as remote as 
possible and then disregarding it. 

It has been suggested that had Epicurus had but a part 
of the geometrical knowledge of his contemporary Euclid 
and also that conception of cosmography that many men 
then living had, he might have discovered the laws of uni- 


versal gravitation and not only the laws but — what was 
the despair of Newton — its mechanical cause.^ 

In the statement that the sum total of the universe was 
never more nor less than it is now and that the motion 
that atoms now have they always have had and always 
will have, we find an anticipation of the doctrine of the 
conservation of energy. 

In connection with the discussion of the shapes of atoms 
Lucretius speaks of the different rates of motion of the 
atoms, e.g., of a sluggish and a volatile fluid. As he be- 
lieves that the rate of motion of atoms is constant, for he 
implies, we think, that the atoms even when they form a 
mass of iron or stone move as swiftly as they do when 
streaming through space, we encounter a difficulty. This 
difficulty or contradiction is due to the failure of Lucretius 
to distinguish between the molecule and the atom. Had he 
spoken of a molecule of these fluids, all would be clear. 
He nowhere, however, so far as we can see, makes this dis- 
tinction. Giusanni, Lucretius' well-known Italian commen- 
tator, claims that he does, basing the claim upon the logic 
of the statement we are now discussing. The argument 
does not seem convincing. We detect rather a fault in rea- 
soning on the part of Lucretius. Whether he has correctly 
interpreted Epicurus or has misunderstood him is not clear. 
The fact, therefore, that the Lucretian atom had to serve 
the purpose of the molecule as well, will help explain the 
conception of atoms of different shapes — smooth, jagged, 
hooked, and so forth. Crude as this conception appears, it 

^"The Atomic Theory of Lucretius," British Quarterly Review, Octo- 
ber, 1875. 

i 158 y 


will be remembered that the conceptions of chemical 
affinity that have replaced it are equally inadequate for 
their task and exist as mere conveniences of expression. If 
Lucretius implies, as we think he does — though we are not 
absolutely certain — that the motion of atoms in combina- 
tion is constant, he is not supported by modern investiga- 
tion. The rate of motion of the molecule or atom of 
hydrogen has been calculated at sixty-nine miles a minute, 
that of oxygen something like a fourth less. 

Lucretius, in speaking of that combination of insensible 
atoms that produces sense, clearly indicates that he views 
life as a mode of motion of the atoms. Disturb this mode 
and we have unconsciousness; break it up and death 
ensues. We really know of no more satisfactory explana- 
tion of the phenomenon of death at the present time. 

As stated before, the specific application of this theory of 
the constitution of matter contains little that is true and 
much that is absurd. The outline of the process of creation 
and of development on earth contains, however, some 
rather startling anticipations of the future. 

At first nothing that now is, was to be seen — sun, stars, 
earth, sea, or heaven — but a strange chaotic jumble of 
atoms unable to combine; gradually the different parts of 
the world began to separate. The heavy particles of earth 
collected in the middle and squeezed out the lighter atoms 
of the other parts of the world; ether with its fires burst 
forth and, collecting on high, formed the outermost sphere 
of the world; this is what Lucretius designates by the im- 
pressive phrase ftammantia tnoenia mundi, "the flaming 
walls of the world." Between this sphere of ether and the 



earth, the rudiments of sun, moon, and stars took up their 
positions; the earth, rid of these Ughter particles, sank down 
still more, where the bed of ocean is, and these depressions 
were flooded with salt water. The more the earth was 
beaten upon by the heat of the ether and the sun, the more 
it was condensed, and thus the ocean was increased by par- 
ticles of moisture squeezed out of it and the heavens by 
elements of fire that flew off from it. Thus the earth 
sank to the bottom, and sea, air, and ether were left sepa- 
rate — ether above all gliding on its even way and mixing 
with none of the lower elements. This account of creation 
in its broad outlines is surprisingly similar to the nebular 
hypothesis of Laplace. 

We need not follow Lucretius in his theories of the vari- 
ous phenomena of nature, for many of them are grotesque 
in the extreme and many are opposed to correct views 
that were held even at that time. Among these may be 
cited his rejection of the theory of gravitation and the antip- 
odes. He will often suggest several possible explanations 
of a phenomenon, stating that any one may be true and 
that it is a matter of indifference which is accepted. This 
unscientific procedure, typical of the attitude of the Epi- 
curean school, is due to the fact that, though the system 
emphasized the importance of physics, as the ancient phi- 
losophers called it, the main interest of the sect was in the 
branch called ethics. As soon as Lucretius had established 
his thesis that the soul of man was material in structure, 
he was rather indifferent to the strict application of the 
theory of atoms to the other facts of nature. 

The theory of the survival of the fittest and the account 

i 160 y 


of the growth of civiUzation are powerfully presented and 
in the main along correct lines, as follows. Many races of 
regularly organized creatures must have died off because 
they lacked some natural power by which to protect them- 
selves; they fell a prey to others and disappeared, unable 
to endure the struggle for existence. Primitive man was 
much hardier then than now and lived like the beast in the 
field; ignorant of tillage, he fed on what the earth supplied 
of itself, acorns and berries, and drank of the running 
waters; he was without fire or clothes or home, without 
law, government, or marriage; he slept on the ground, not 
fearing the dark to which he had been used from child- 
hood; his fear was the fear of savage beasts. Next the use 
of huts and skins and fire softened his body; marriage and 
the ties of family, his temper. Neighbors agreed not to 
injure each other and made treaties of friendship and 
alliance, which mostly they observed, though not always. 
This last statement is interesting — that even before men 
had developed the faculty of speech they agreed by means 
of signs to live in peace with one another. That is, a mutual 
agreement to obey laws for the common interest is the 
principle on which the Epicurean holds society to be based. 
In this doctrine Epicurus anticipated by many centuries 
the teaching of Rousseau. 

Nature and need prompted men to the use of speech; 
lightning first gave fire to men; cooking they learned from 
the effects of the sun's rays, which they saw softening and 
ripening things. Every day men of genius invented im- 
proved methods of life; cities were built, lands and cattle 
allotted, at first according to merit, but soon the discovery 


of gold gave all power to the wealthy; men would not 
learn how little was needed for happiness; they therefore 
sacrificed everything for power and eminence. Kings were 
overthrown and anarchy followed, till nations weary of vio- 
lence established laws and constitutions; their fear of pun- 
ishment restrained men, as injustice generally recoils on 
the wrongdoer, and if he escapes punishment he cannot 
escape the terrors of conscience. Men saw the seasons 
change and all the wonders of the heaven; they therefore 
placed their gods in heaven and believed that all things 
were governed by them. 

The metals were discovered through the burning of 
woods, which baked the earth and caused the ore to run. 
With these they made arms and tools. At first copper was 
rated more highly than useless gold and silver. For arms, 
men used at first hands, nails, teeth, clubs, then fire, then 
copper or brass, at last iron. Horses were first employed in 
war, then chariots, then elephants — strife begetting one 
horror after another. Weaving came into use after iron, 
as the web could not be woven without instruments of iron. 
Nature first taught to sow, plant, and graft; then one kind 
of culture after another was devised and more and more 
ground brought under tillage. Birds taught men • song; 
from the whistling of the zephyrs through reeds they 
learned to blow through stalks; next the pipe came into 
use. With such music watchers would while away the 
time and derive no less pleasure than is now derived from 
elaborate tunes. Finally came walled towns, division of 
lands, ships, treaties between states, and, when letters were 
invented, Hterature. 



Such is the epic of civiUzation sketched by Lucretius in 
powerful strokes and such is the compHcated state of exist- 
ence that has arisen as a result of the combination of the 
simple atom. 

The classical atomic theory remained as formulated by 
Lucretius and was rather unfruitful until the sixteenth cen- 
tury, when Pierre Gassendi, a French philosopher, revived 
interest in it. He accepted the theory as outlined, with the 
exception that, being a churchman, he had God create 
atoms and void, whereas the ancients had them exist from 
all eternity. 

The modern theory of atoms as applied to chemistry was 
worked out by Dalton at the beginning of the nineteenth 
century. It is historically the Greek theory with this im- 
portant difference. The theory of elements had been de- 
veloped in chemistry and it was to that series of elements 
that Dalton applied his atomic hypothesis. The original 
element in his work was the theory that atoms were not of 
various shapes but that the atoms of different elements were 
different in weight. From Dalton's time the atomic theory 
followed two distinct lines of development — one in chemis- 
try and one in physics. Subsequent experiments in physics 
have led to the isolation of the atom, and one hundred 
years after the adoption of the atomic theory in its modern 
form, science demonstrated that the atomic unit is made up 
of smaller units or electrons. The theory of electrons does 
not set aside the theory of atoms but goes beyond it. 

We are accustomed to view Greece as the mother of all 
that we have of value in art and literature; is it not, how- 
ever, somewhat surprising to find such a close connection 

i 163 f 


between this old Greek theory of the constitution o£ matter 
and that modern hypothesis that alone permitted the de- 
velopment of the sciences of chemistry and physics? In- 
deed, we may go so far as to say that none of the ideas of 
antiquity have been more suggestive than this,^ for modern 
scientific research has its starting point in the attempt so 
many centuries ago of Leucippus, the father of the atom- 
ists, to reduce qualities to quantities or, rather, to establish 
fixed relations between the two. 

'See Gomperz, Greek Thinners, I, 349. 

i 164 y 



THE problem o£ an international language was most 
earnestly discussed during the latter part of the nine- 
teenth century. It was the period that saw the rise and fall 
of Volapuk, the first of the artificial languages, which, in 
a certain sense, did become international and indicated at 
least the possibility that some such scheme was not entirely 

It was in the period between the decline of Volapuk and 
the rise of Esperanto that the project of reviving Latin as 
an international language, either solely for scientific pur- 
poses or for communication of all kinds, was first seriously 

It is interesting to note that the present revival of the 
project to make Latin serve the purpose follows in the 
wake of the apparent failure of Esperanto to meet the re- 
quirements, though its phenomenal vogue for a short time 
gave hopes of ultimate success. After its successor, Neutral 
Idiom, has run its course, we shall probably see another 
resurrection of the Latin project. 

At the time of the Paris Exposition, where many learned 
societies convened, a committee was appointed to study the 
question of an international language. In the following 
year the committee submitted a report embodying the fol- 



lowing dicta: that the international language should be 
merely an auxiliary language, to serve as a medium o£ oral 
and written communication among peoples of the civilized 
world, which should not interfere in any way with the 
vernaculars of the individual peoples. It should be a lan- 
guage easily adapted to the uses of everyday life, to com- 
merce, and to all scientific and philosophical discussion. It 
should be easy enough to be learned in a very short time 
vvith a minimum expenditure of effort. It should under 
no circumstances be one of the international languages 
now in use. These conditions certainly had in view an arti- 
ficial language, as none of the existing tongues would seem 
to meet all the requirements. 

During the subsequent lull in the popular discussion of 
the problem, extending up to 1917, we have seen settled 
the fate of several of the artificial languages that had been 
invented and placed upon the market. It is not my inten- 
tion to discuss these so-called languages, because in my 
opinion such attempts are predoomed to failure. It will 
suffice to say that at the present time a scientific article in 
Esperanto appears but rarely and that Neutral Idiom has 
as yet fallen far short of the degree of popularity that 
Esperanto once attained. 

The principle laid down by the Paris committee that the 
international language should not be one of the present 
national languages was dictated by the idea that national 
jealousy would inevitably prevent the adoption of a modern 
language now in use and that any attempt to effect this 
would be labor lost. 

The artificial languages hitherto tried having proved a 

i 166 y 


failure and a modern tongue being seemingly disbarred, in 
the present revival of the discussion in England and, more 
particularly, in Italy, Latin is the language that is proposed. 
It is suggested that Latin can be made to meet the require- 
ments of scientific and philosophic thought as it did to the 
very beginning of the nineteenth century. Its most enthusi- 
astic advocates insist that with the inexhaustible Greek 
vocabulary from which to draw it can meet all new scien- 
tific needs. Latin forms part of the educational pabulum of 
all Western nations. It is a language closely connected by 
direct descent or by history with the principal vernaculars 
of western Europe. It already supplies many scientific 
nomenclatures, some of which have been reduced to re- 
markable uniformity. There is nothing to prevent adapting 
it to the necessities of everyday life and even of commerce. 
It can also meet the requirement that the international lan- 
guage should be merely auxiliary, not interfering in any 
way with the vernacular. 

Emphatically, however, it does not meet the requirement 
of being a tongue easy to learn, even when taught under 
favorable circumstances. This difficulty has induced several 
attempts to simplify Latin, of which I cite two, Linguum 
Islianum, so named from its inventor, Isly, and Reform 
Latein.-^ The result is a purely artificial language in each 
case, and this brings us back to our main consideration, 

Some echoes of the revival of this discussion have reached 
our shores, as evinced by an article in the Review of Re- 
views of October, 1917, and another in the Scientific Ameri- 

* See Couturat et Leau, Histoire de la langue universelle, pp. 542 if. 

-{ 167 )► 


can of November, 1917. The revival of the discussion may 
be attributed in part to the war. In many scientific branches 
Italy has in the last ten years been making marvelous prog- 
ress. As Italian is the least known of the four tongues in 
which the science of the Western world is reported, Italian 
scholars, in order to gain a larger audience, have in some 
instances published in German, because the scientific litera- 
ture of that language is the most extensive in the world. 

It is but natural that the Italians should, in the present 
crisis, look for some international medium of expression 
and what more natural than that they should turn to Latin, 
the mother of their own tongue and a language that some 
Italian scholars use not only with ease but with elegance? 
It may be of interest to note that in Italy Latin poetry has 
been cultivated even to the present generation. I mean real 
poetry as distinguished from experiments in Latin verse. 
As recently as 1917 an elaborate edition of the Latin poems 
of Giovanni Pascoli, the successor of Carducci, appeared. 

To the Englishman also, I presume, the thought of perus- 
ing the ponderous and clumsy idiom of German science is 
more repellent than ever, and it is natural that in a country 
where the classical tradition is still strong he should turn 
to the Latin. The consideration of the question in England 
has been restricted to an interchange of ideas between scien- 
tific men and to occasional testimony presented by the 
classical teacher, such as Dr. Rouse of the Perse School, 
Cambridge, who calls attention to the fact that the way has 
already been paved in some of the schools of England for 
the revival of Latin as an international language by the 
introduction of direct methods of teaching the language, 


which permit the school to impart the abiUty to write and 
speak Latin as well as to read it, with a saving of about 
one-fifth the time. Anyone who knows Rouse or is person- 
ally acquainted with his work knows that the facts are not 

In Italy much more has been done. A Latin league has 
been formed at Rome, one of the avowed purposes of which 
is to further the plan to make Latin the international 
tongue. Following an address by Professor Carlo Pascal in 
the summer of 1917, entitled "The Revival of Latin as an 
International Scientific Language," the Royal Lombardy 
Institute of Science and Letters passed a resolution to the 
effect that the matter should be brought to the notice of the 
minister of public instruction, the minister of foreign 
affairs, and the learned societies of the world. A date was 
also set at which the society was to consider the most feasi- 
ble and effective means of bringing the idea to fruition. 

The most elaborate discussion of the subject is that of 
Professor Ignazio Galli in the records of the Pontifical 
Academy of the Nuovi Lincei of Rome for January, 1917. 
In this monograph Galli does not restrict the discussion to 
Latin as an international scientific language, but considers 
Latin also in relation to commerce and travel. 

I shall refrain from discussing these two latter aspects, not 
because it would be impossible to express with adequate 
precision and variety the ideas to be expressed in these two 
fields, provided that there should be an international agree- 
ment as to the use and meaning of certain terms, but be- 
cause I believe that the possibility of its ever being revived 
for these purposes is too remote to render the discussion 

i 169 y 


Granting that Latin might be revived as an international 
language of science, the experience of the nineties has, I 
think, indicated very clearly two facts: Latin for such a 
purpose should be a Latin modeled upon the Latin of the 
Middle Ages rather than upon that of classical times, and 
it should freely permit the adoption of the changed mean- 
ing of many Latin words now in use. 

I am led to this conviction by the testimony presented by 
several Latin periodicals that appeared when the project 
was first agitated: the Phoenix, of which four numbers 
appeared from 1890 to 1892; the Praeco Latinus, published 
from 1895 to 1902 in Philadelphia; the Vox Urbis, pub- 
lished at Rome, and the Alaudae, published at Aquila in 
Italy. In these publications modern ideas were often ex- 
pressed with great ingenuity in classical diction, at which 
in general these journals aimed, the Praeco in particular. 
In many instances one's admiration was aroused by the 
ingenuity of the phrases. Often a smile might be provoked 
by their preciosity, but still oftener a feeling of irritation at 
the cryptic character of the word or phrase. The conviction 
grows as one reads that such a style and treatment are abso- 
lutely unsuited for the serious business of conveying modern 
thought and that science would not for a moment contem- 
plate submitting itself to such shackles. I can illustrate the 
point by a simple example. The French minister of public 
instruction was designated in a Latin discourse by one aim- 
ing at classical usage by the phrase summus ret Gallorum 
literariae moderator, a phrase hard to understand unless 
one had the key. A medieval writer having to express this 

i, 170 ^ 


idea would probably write minister instructionis publicae 
in Gallia, and his idea would be easily grasped. 

The writer of the article in the Scientific American to 
which reference has been made remarks that if we should 
adopt Latin as an international language "by furnishing 
a highly practical raison d'etre for the general teaching of 
Latin in our schools and colleges, we should perhaps heal 
the long-standing breach between the classicists and the 
modernist factions among educators." Whether there is 
anything in this suggestion or not, it is interesting to specu- 
late as to what would be the effect on the teaching of Latin 
of the adoption of the language as an international medium. 
In the first place, I imagine, there would be no additional 
incentive to the study of classical antiquity, and in the 
second place radical changes would have to be made in 
methods of instruction, at least by teachers who were not 
securing something like the results attained by Dr. Rouse 
in the Perse School. I am not at all sure that this would be 
an undesirable result, but I foresee, at least in this country, 
great difficulties to overcome because of the fact that few 
teachers are trained for such work and there would be 
great disappointment over the results produced for some 
years to come. We may say, however, for this country what 
Rouse has said for England, that the way has to a certain 
extent been paved, particularly in localities within the 
sphere of influence of Columbia University. 

Judging too from criticism made upon courses in French, 
German, and even English offered to classes in the techni- 
cal colleges of our universities, to the effect that time is 


wasted in the study of the Uterature of these languages, 
I foresee Uke and even greater criticism of the teaching of 
Latin. No such considerations as these should stand in the 
way of the project to revive Latin as an international lan- 
guage, however, provided the project is feasible, and I my- 
self should like to see the trial made. I hasten to remark, 
however, that I am perfectly conscious that, in discussing 
the educational side of the problem, I am allowing my 
imagination to run away with my discretion, for, notwith- 
standing the many circumstances that would seem to point 
to Latin as the promised tongue, there are certain other 
facts strong enough to prevent its general use in the way 

The reason that Latin was given up as the universal 
language of science was that more and more it was felt to 
be a restraint upon untrammeled expression of thought. 
The classicists did all they could to assist its disuse by in- 
sisting upon the employment of a Ciceronian diction that 
science had outgrown. 

Nothing is so restive under restraint as the expression of 
creative thought, which, according to an irresistible law of 
nature, seeks the line of least resistance. This one fact is 
enough to prevent the general use of Latin for the purpose 
indicated. Modern thought expresses itself naturally in lan- 
guages of an analytic, not in those of a synthetic, character. 
It takes long and severe training to accustom the modern 
man to express himself readily through the synthetic 
medium of Latin. 

There is, however, one way in which Latin does facilitate 
the interchange of international scientific thought, and it 



could be made even more effective than it is along these 
lines. Latin serves as the basis of the nomenclatures of 
many sciences. The " BNA " is a striking example of what 
can be accomplished. "BNA" is a shorthand expression 
designating the Basle anatomical nomenclature, which con- 
sists of about forty-five hundred anatomical terms desig- 
nating the various parts of the body visible to the naked 
eye. The terms are all in correct Latin and have been 
selected by a group of the distinguished anatomists of the 
world. The history of the formation and selection of this 
nomenclature is both interesting and instructive. It has 
eliminated a great number of synonymous or ambiguous 
terms, and its almost universal international use is proof of 
its feasibility and utility. 

If the world authorities in the various sciences would 
follow the example of the anatomists, the botanists, and the 
pharmacologists and would systematize their nomencla- 
tures, much would be gained, for as yet psychology, biology, 
sociology, history, and ancient philology possess no system 
of internationally intelligible terms. Then at least an ele- 
mentary knowledge of Latin should be required of students 
in these sciences to give life to their scientific vocabulary. 
This, it seems to me, is about as far as Latin can be used 
as a medium for international communication of scientific 
thought, and thus far the scientists should go, even if some 
international language should be ultimately adopted. 

I can imagine but two possibilities for the adoption of 
such a language. It is conceivable that as the result of 
political or commercial supremacy some one language 
working under natural laws would gain such a position 



that it would virtually serve the purpose of an international 
language, as Latin did in the past. Such a destiny may be 
conceivable for English or for German, but the possibility 
is remote. The other possibility is that by mutual agree- 
ment the learned societies, the governments, and the edu- 
cational institutions of the w^orld should select one of the 
modern tongues for the purpose. This would, of course, be 
a great thing for international science, but it would perhaps 
be a greater thing for the world at large in helping to make 
nations better acquainted with each other and in breaking 
down national prejudices. 

The difficulties are perhaps too great to overcome. But 
if we allow our imaginations to play with the idea a mo- 
ment, we may say that in many ways French is well suited 
to the purpose. It is understood in learned circles all over 
the world, being, as well, the European tongue that is 
perhaps best known in the Orient. Furthermore, it is un- 
surpassed for clarity of expression. One of its disadvantages 
is the difficulty of its pronunciation. An insuperable obsta- 
cle, however, is that of national jealousy. 

Of the modern tongues Spanish would seem to be the 
most available because on examination it will be found to 
approximate most closely the requirements suggested by 
the Paris commission. Spain does not hold such a position 
among modern nations intellectually, politically, or com- 
mercially that the plan to adopt her language would meet 
with insuperable objections. The language is already used 
in widely separated parts of the world. Though no natural 
language can be said to be easy to learn, it is incontestable 
that the pronunciation of Spanish is one of the easiest for 

i 174 y 


a foreigner to acquire with approximate correctness. The 
structure is more simple and natural than that of German, 
Italian, or French. 

Finally, the adoption of Spanish as an auxiliary interna- 
tional tongue would furnish a raison d'etre for the present 
tremendous vogue for the study of elementary Spanish in 
our schools and colleges, a vogue which, at the present, 
I cannot in my own mind justify on grounds either intel- 
lectual, pedagogical, or practical. 

Whether or not such an international medium is selected, 
however, the matter of systematized Latin nomenclatures, 
as I have already stated, is of prime importance in facilitat- 
ing the exchange of international scientific thought. It is, 
too, a matter of some importance to those interested in the 
maintenance of Latin in the curriculum; for should the 
scientists in general, following the example of some of the 
medical schools, impose a moderate Latin requirement for 
the purposes outlined above, it would be of distinct advan- 
tage, not only to the cause of Latin, but to the cause of lin- 
guistic historical and literary studies. 


This paper was written in 1918. Shortly after its publica- 
tion three articles on the same general theme appeared, to 
which I call attention: "Latin as a Universal Language," by 
Professor L. J. Paetow, in the Classical Review, 15:340 (1920); 
"The Future of Latin," by the same author, in the Classical 
Weekly, 1920, p. 17; and "Latin as an International Lan- 
guage," by Professor W. A. Oldfather, in the Classical Review, 
16:195 (1921). 

i 175 \ 


The twelve years that have passed since this paper was writ- 
ten have seen the collapse of Neutral Idiom and the survival 
of Esperanto. The statement made above that "at the present 
time rarely does a scientific article appear in Esperanto" still 
remains true. I am informed that scientific terminologies in 
Esperanto have been adopted in Japan for certain branches of 
science, e.g., meteorology, which replace the former German 
terms. In Europe the use of Esperanto in commercial fields 
appears to be spreading. 

Time has only strengthened my conviction of the utter im- 
practicability of reviving Latin as a medium for scientific com- 
munication. The problem will be solved, in all probability, 
by natural selection. One of the modern languages will come 
to be used more and more in international intercourse and, 
being so used, will become the auxiliary language of science. 




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